Joanna Cherry ‘sacked’ in SNP Westminster reshuffle

Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor
·3-min read

SNP MP Joanna Cherry said she had been “sacked” from her party’s front bench team at Westminster, as a reshuffled was announced.

Ms Cherry had been the SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster – but was also seen by many as being close to former leader Alex Salmond, as well as having come in for criticism from some for her stance on transgender issues.

The reshuffle revealed that Anne McLaughlin has now been appointed as the party’s Westminster spokeswoman on justice and immigration.

It comes after Ms Cherry successfully challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for the prorogation of Parliament in 2019.

As the SNP Westminster reshuffle was announced, Ms Cherry tweeted: “Despite hard work, results & a strong reputation I’ve been sacked today from @theSNP front bench.”

She added: “Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland’s constitutional future and @theSNP would do well to radically rethink our strategy.”

The reshuffle saw four SNP MPs join the party’s frontbench team in the Commons, with Patricia Gibson becoming spokeswoman for housing, communities and local government, while Angela Crawley takes on the role of shadow spokeswoman for the Attorney General.

Richard Thomson and Stephen Flynn, both of whom were only elected to the Commons in 2019, have also stepped up, becoming the party’s Northern Ireland spokesman and business, energy and industrial strategy spokesman, respectively.

Meanwhile, Tommy Sheppard switches to constitutional affairs, having previously been the SNP’s cabinet office spokesman.

In a statement, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said they party had a “wealth of talent and experience”, and that the reshuffle “ensures we are in the best possible position to hold the UK Government to account during this global pandemic and the aftermath of Brexit, to support colleagues ahead of the Scottish elections, and to deliver independence”.

Mr Blackford stressed: “Team working and co-operation are key to ensure results and this reshuffle will give us a strong team to take us forward.

“We have an incredibly hard-working group of MPs – I thank them all for their commitment and congratulate those in new positions.

“I was pleased to welcome four MPs to the front bench; Patricia Gibson MP, Angela Crawley MP, Richard Thomson MP and Stephen Flynn MP. ”

Meanwhile, SNP MP Neil Gray is co-ordinate the party’s inclusion and wellbeing team, before stepping down from Westminster as he seeks election to the Scottish Parliament in May.

Mr Blackford said: “I thank him for all his work and wish him the very best.”

There was no mention of Ms Cherry in his statement, with the SNP Westminster leader adding: “We are at a crucial time in politics. Never before have we faced a challenge as great as the global pandemic, and Scotland is acutely feeling the ramifications of leaving the European Union.

“With the Scottish elections on the horizon and independence in touching distance, our new team is ready to work hard for Scotland.”

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill stood up for Ms Cherry, describing her removal from the front bench as “inexplicable and harmful to our cause”.

Mr MacAskill, a former justice secretary in the Scottish Government, tweeted: “I know how highly rated Joanna Cherry is in UK justice circles as well the party grassroots in Scotland. She remains head and shoulders above most others and I for one stand by her.

“This is the leadership’s call but many of us find this inexplicable and harmful to our cause.”