One Rule for Them: The Margaret Ferrier Case

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Déjà vu has swept the nation after yet another political figure has breached basic COVID-19 regulations. Margaret Ferrier, SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, travelled from her constituency to Westminster with coronavirus symptoms and back on public transport following her positive test result. Nicola Sturgeon described this as the “worst breach imaginable” and has consequently removed the party whip and suspended her from the Party.

Thinking back to past times of banana bread and home haircuts, a similar flouting of the rules was performed by Johnson’s chief advisor, Dominic Cummings. Despite strong criticism from the public, this unelected official faced no repercussions – not only a major turning point for public faith during the pandemic but also more generally for the rule of law. These drastically different government responses raise the question: what should happen to political figures who break the rules?

Despite facing deafening calls to stand down from figures from all main political parties; including SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Ferrier is refusing to resign, claiming that “coronavirus makes you do things out of character”. Before her public apology, Ferrier referred herself to the police and the Commons standards commission who can trigger a recall. This would involve a petition by her constituents who can request a byelection. In the meantime, Sturgeon has dodged some embarrassment by enacting the most serious sanction possible and in doing so has reinforced the public health message. This is something that can definitely not be said for Johnson and his Number 10 henchman.

Back in May, Cummings travelled 260 miles to his second home in Durham after his wife had displayed coronavirus symptoms, despite the current advice to ‘stay at home’. The public was then expected to believe the concoction of excuses spout out during his Rose Garden public announcement in which he claimed to be travelling for child-care. He insisted that he took a day trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, despite multiple witnesses undermining this assertion. This triggered the ‘Cummings effect’: a complete destruction of public confidence after many had made great sacrifices, including forgoing final goodbyes with dying family members. This consolidated the most overwhelming theme that can be derived from the Conservative’s pandemic response: they have chronically acted completely out of touch from the general public. Our fears were confirmed once again, it really is one rule for them and another for us. 

Sturgeon has ensured that the Ferrier case has not followed in the footsteps of Johnson’s gaslighting and in many ways the breaches were quite dissimilar. Demands for Ferrier to resign are incomparable to the common outrage at Dominic Cummings and Former MP George Kerevan has warned of a ‘trial by media’ fuelled by ‘virtue signallers’. Should we expect our representative to be paragons of virtue or should we allow them to make errors of judgement like the rest of us? The hypocritical words of Margaret Ferrier in her most recent speech in parliament as well as her criticism of Cummings make it quite clear. There is no excuse for her extremely dangerous actions especially when self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms have been the guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Ruby Wait-Weguelin

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons