Joanna Cherry: I wouldn’t have stood as a MP if I knew the threats and abuse I’d receive
Joanna Cherry says she would not have entered frontline politics had she known the level of abuse and intimidation she would receive.
In an exclusive interview with Holyrood’s Politically Speaking podcast, the MP for Edinburgh South West said she had been threatened with rape by a former SNP party member following her sacking from the front bench at Westminster.
Cherry said that following her demotion at the hands of the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford last week, she was sent a series of threatening messages on social media culminating in a threat of sexual violence.
Police Scotland confirmed last week that a 30-year-old man had been charged in connection with the incident and reported to prosecutors.
Cherry said that had she known the amount of abuse she would receive, she would not have entered frontline politics and now has to consider her future.
She said: “I am a pretty strong person. I have a loving family, a loving girlfriend and some fantastic staff who work for me and a lot of support within the party. I think somebody who didn’t have that would probably have cracked up under the strain I’ve been put under.
“Had I known the level of abuse and threats I would receive from within my own party, and the repeated briefing against me and attempts to smear me from within my own party, without the sort of support I would’ve expected from the leadership, then I would not have stood to be a candidate.
“I don’t regret standing because I care passionately about the cause, but had I known what I was going to go through, I wouldn’t have stood. I know for a fact, because woman write to me and email me, that looking at what’s happened to me is putting women off entering politics.”
Cherry said the febrile debate within the party over changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and allegations of transphobia directed at her had put her at risk.
She said: “I have a friendship with a trans woman dating back to the days when I first came out as a lesbian on the scene in Edinburgh in the 1980s. One of my most loyal and hard-working activists is a trans woman. I am not transphobic.
“The people who are propagating the idea that I’m transphobic are not only being unfair to me, they’re actually putting me in danger because of the level of abuse I’ve received, which included a death threat in 2019 and in the last week has included a series of very scary and frightening messages which have led to a man being arrested and charged with a serious offence. I can’t comment on that too much at the moment. I can’t tell you who the man was, but I can tell you he was a party member.”
Asked about accusations that she is being disloyal by simply talking about these issues, Cherry said she had no choice.
“It's a catch 22 and I don't really know what I'm supposed to do,” she said. “Am I just supposed to shut up and take it for the sake of the party? Ignore the fact that a party member has made serious threats against me, including sexual violence for the sake of the party? Is that what's being suggested?”
Pressed on whether she felt she should get more public support from the party leadership, Cherry said: “I'm not going to criticise the First Minister. You've outlined the facts of the matter, and they speak for themselves, but you've asked me a question, I'll answer it directly, no, I have not had any contact from the First Minister.”
Cherry said the party had ignored her requests to deal with the abuse she has received through its complaints process.
She added: “I’ve been asking for a year and a half now and it hasn’t happened. I’m very upset and very hurt that nobody from the leadership of my party has condemned the abuse that I received last week, which included a threat of serious sexual violence. That’s where we have got to in this debate.”
For the full interview, go to https://www.holyrood.com/podcasts.htm or wherever you get your podcasts.