1 December 2015

Why do sheep-like SNP MPs all think exactly the same thing on Syria?


There is not much to praise in Labour’s handling of the Syria vote. I won’t recount the full extent of the shambles here because it falls into the life is too short category.‎ But at least Labour is having an argument and allowing a free vote, which reflects the moral complexity of the situation. Labour MPs have different views, which is what you would expect in a group of adults pondering questions of war and peace.

Ahead of the vote on British involvement in Syria, The Tory party too is split, with a group of MPs concerned enough to vote against. Indeed, it is only because of that split that Cameron needs the numbers from moderate Labour MP.

It is all rather different in the SNP, where there is only one view. Remarkably they all think the same thing about Syria, which is what the leadership tells them to think, which this time means opposing action. Remember, this is how the SNP works. Voicing opposition to the leadership line, or even criticising an SNP minister (which counts as asking them any tricky questions) is banned. Free votes are a virtually alien concept.

It is a pretty sinister set-up, especially when the SNP is a party always banging on about democracy that 15 years ago whined constantly about New Labour “control freakery”.

There are bright SNP MPs with interesting private views. I know this to be true‎. There are Nationalist MPs who in their previous lives took all manner of interesting positions and argued the case well. Now, they shut up. Everyone toes the line. Not a single one of the SNP’s Westminster 56 – sorry 54 now, as the police investigate two of their number – seems to have anything independent or interesting to say about ISIS, or helping France, or Syria, that differs from the leadership line.

This has not stopped SNP MPs from sniping at Labour on social media. Labour is failing to show leadership, apparently, by having a free vote on Syria.‎ Labour frontbenchers are derided, leading me to wonder if the Nats will ever give the pious, tedious denigration of Labour people a rest.

Their behaviour is particularly rich, when being an SNP MP involves handing in your brain at reception and abandoning all independent thought in public unless you are Alex Salmond and think everyone is more interested in what you have to say than they really are.

Rather than being sanctimonious and mocking the other parties, the brighter SNP MPs should be asking themselves ahead of the Syria debate in the Commons how it is that they have ended up in this position, of not being allowed to use their brains on the great questions of the moment.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.