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Sketch: Margaret Ferrier goes on tour

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Margaret Ferrier goes on tour

Margaret Ferrier says COVID “makes you act out of character”, which is why she chose to take a 350 mile trip on public transport despite experiencing coronavirus symptoms, then take another 350 mile trip after testing positive.

And who knows, maybe she’s right. Maybe the virus can make you act out of character. It’s a twist on the classic Jekyll and Hyde plot, basically, except instead of being transformed into someone else through chemical experimentation in the name of scientific endeavour, she got on a train, while carrying a potentially deadly and deeply contagious virus, despite having repeatedly told people not to do that.

As she explained to the Sun on Sunday: “A lot of people say COVID makes you do things out of character. You’re not thinking straight.”

Ah yes, the three classic symptoms of COVID. A persistent cough, a high temperature, and the belief it’s appropriate to ignore all public health guidance and travel hundreds of miles while infected in order to take part in a debate in a crowded room about how we should all follow the rules. It’s meant to lead to a loss of taste, Margaret. Not judgment.

In fact it later turned out the trip to the Commons was just part of what transpired to be quite a busy week for the MP, with news emerging that she had also met with local police officers after experiencing symptoms, before reports in the Daily Record suggested she had taken a trip to the beach and performed a reading at a church service.

It was unbelievable. As Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon put it, in reaction: “Not even a place of worship was safe from this MP’s selfish and dangerous actions”. Which was true, even if it’s probably worth pointing out that the congregation had been going there anyway, and weren’t camped out in the church, hiding, like villagers trying to evade Dracula.

It was certainly worrying, with each report adding to the growing feeling that you can’t escape Ferrier anywhere, yet still she hung on. By that stage it wouldn’t have been a shock to hear she’d been breaking into care homes to rub faces with elderly residents.

And while some, including the First Minister, called on Ferrier to resign her seat, on the basis she had put lives at risk, the MP herself argued she should not, on the basis she didn’t want to. 

But really, it’s hard to escape the feeling she might have been on to something. Boris Johnson hasn’t seemed like himself for some time, after all. He used to be a very successful politician. Though on the other hand, Donald Trump also caught COVID, and he is being just as weird as he was before.

Whatever the case, Ferrier does appear to owe Dominic Cummings an apology. It was only a few months ago she was berating Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser for putting lives at risk after he broke lockdown rules, but at least he was trying to isolate from other people. She essentially went on tour.

Yet Ferrier herself apparently rejects comparisons, though not for the obvious reason that Cummings travelled privately, rather than on public transport, and also hadn’t actually tested positive.

“A lot of people have likened it to the Dominic Cummings thing”, she said, which was true. A lot of people have likened the two situations, in large part because of how similar they are.

But that’s wrong, apparently.

“If you think about it,” she explained. “He doesn’t think he has done anything wrong and has still not really apologised in my opinion. Whereas I’ve come out and I’ve owned up to maybe letting people down. I’ve apologised profusely.”

You’ve owned up to maybe letting people down? Maybe? Is that profuse?

“I remember the interview out in the Downing Street garden,” she said. “He tried to wiggle his way around that.”

Yes it would be a terrible time to start trying to wiggle your way out of taking responsibility. No, instead Ferrier chose to apologise immediately, then wait a week before claiming the apology was forced on her by SNP HQ and that it hadn’t really been her that did all that stuff anyway because of the transformative effects of coronavirus.

So Ferrier refused to resign, which is really what standing up for Scotland is all about. In fact she then infuriated colleagues further by taking part in a vote on the Agriculture Bill, after using Jonathan Edwards, who was suspended from Plaid Cymru after being cautioned by the police for an assault, as a proxy.

It looks like she may try to cling on, and just stay in the Commons until the next election. After all, there’s very little anyone can really do about it. She could even stand again, if she wanted to. Margaret Ferrier may not be very popular with voters, but she could just run as a different person.

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