The Westminster circus returned in true form on Wednesday, 18th August. As hundreds of thousands of people saw their country collapse around them, we in the UK sat gawking at the TV screen as Parliament sat for an emergency session to debate the blood curdling scenes unfolding in Afghanistan.
It is rare that these sessions of parliamentary debate evoke such widespread interest but the importance of this occasion was not lost on the public. Theresa May returned to the limelight with astonishing presence, demonstrating an air of control and respect that was notably lacking from the front benches. Tom Tugendhat produced a speech for the ages and, true to form, Ian Blackford returned with a traditionally bluster-filled performance, feigning insult at Dominic Raab’s lax seating position and characterised by red faced rage.
It is a sad state of affairs when, despite such an important moment in history, it is Blackford’s speech (if we can even call it that) which sticks out in the memory for many. It not only spoke to the attitude of a man who has striven for years to put himself at the centre of every issue to cross the doorstep of the Commons, but also of a deeply deceitful, vengeful and calculated SNP who may yet do more to harm Afghans than help them.
From the start of his speech, Blackford made it clear that he valued the opportunity to take a swipe at Dominic Raab more than the opportunity to provide solutions and influence government policy.
He quickly moved from an unfounded and disingenuous argument that the Foreign Aid budget cuts were somehow connected to the current crisis in Afghanistan, to a personal attack on the Foreign Secretary for daring to go on holiday while Parliament was in recess, ignoring the Speaker’s warnings that he was stepping out of line and launching a minute-long personal attack on Dominic Raab.
Ultimately, the only thing to be learnt from his contribution was that he is no fan of the Government front bench and that his temper tantrums are likely to continue to be a staple of Commons debates.
For the SNP’s policy as a whole, the current situation is a prime example of the blessings of being a party which has, for almost two decades now, built its success on making promises it can’t keep and blaming its failure on Westminster.
This week’s debate has been an important reminder of the SNP’s stance on illegal immigration. Mere months ago, the SNP publicly come out against the UK Government’s efforts to curb illegal immigration and people trafficking – helpfully forgetting the gross negative impact that this has on those who seek to come through legal channels and decreasing the likelihood that those who follow the rules will ever get into the country.
Perhaps, if the SNP had been more supportive of better regulated immigration in the past, the government analysts would be able to find more room for the Afghans who so dearly need our help. They cannot absolve themselves of responsibility when they have been so blatantly at the heart of the flaws in our immigration policy.
The reaction from the opposition benches as a whole has been characterised by a single word – hypocrisy. It is important to note that this is far from a defence of government policy, but when the opposition benches are taking a position of “zero responsibility” as Lisa Nandy suggested, you have to question why any of the opposition politicians actually turn up at all. Perhaps Blackford’s £250,000 yearly expenses may have something to do with it.