MP Joanna Cherry dropped in SNP frontbench reshuffle

image copyrightPA Media
image captionJoanna Cherry has been an SNP MP since 2015

Joanna Cherry has been dropped from the Scottish National Party's frontbench team at Westminster.

The Edinburgh South West MP said she was sacked from the justice position "despite hard work, results and a strong reputation".

The SNP said it had made a number of changes to its Westminster team ahead of the upcoming Holyrood election.

Later on Monday, Ms Cherry said she had received a "vicious threat" to her personal safety.

Police Scotland confirmed officers are investigating following a report of "threatening communications" being made online.

Move questioned

Ms Cherry, an advocate, played a key role in a number of Brexit legal challenges.

The SNP said it had made a number of changes to its Westminster team ahead of the upcoming Holyrood election.

As the SNP Westminster reshuffle was announced, Ms Cherry tweeted: "Despite hard work, results and a strong reputation I've been sacked today from the SNP front bench."

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

Ms Cherry is a close ally of former party leader Alex Salmond and has been vocal in the party's debate on transgender.

Last year the QC announced plans to challenge for the Edinburgh Central Holyrood constituency at May's election.

But Ms Cherry dropped her campaign after the SNP's governing body changed its rules meaning she would have to resign as an MP first.

Former justice secretary and East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill questioned the move.

Writing on Twitter, he said: "This is the leadership's call but many of us find this inexplicable and harmful to our cause."

Meanwhile, the MP said she had contacted police after receiving a threat from a man.

She tweeted: "Action and inaction have consequences. Tonight I've received a vicious threat from a man to my personal safety.

"The matter has been reported to Police Scotland and I'm somewhere safe. Thank you for all the lovely messages of support."

A force spokeswoman confirmed a report of threatening communications was made at about 19:00 and inquiries are ongoing.

Joanna Cherry is one of the brightest and ablest MPs in the SNP group at Westminster.

She played a leading role in successful legal battles with the UK government during the Brexit process to cancel the shutdown of parliament and to establish that cancelling Brexit was an option.

Nicola Sturgeon was among those to celebrate the Edinburgh South West MP's successes but they have also come into conflict.

Ms Cherry has criticised leadership strategy over independence and its plans to make gender self-identification possible. She has also spoken up in support of Alex Salmond.

I am told that some in the SNP group at Westminster had lost confidence in her and were preparing to write to the group leader, Ian Blackford, to say so. He has pre-empted their complaints.

As an ordinary backbencher, Joanna Cherry may feel freer to speak her mind. But my sense is the SNP leadership is signalling a willingness to take a firmer line against internal dissent.

Who is on the SNP's reshuffled front bench?

Four SNP MPs have joined the party's frontbench team in the Commons as part of what SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said was a team packed with a "wealth of talent and experience".

Mr Blackford, who made no mention of Ms Cherry in his statement, added: "Team working and co-operation are key to ensure results and this reshuffle will give us a strong team to take us forward.

"We are at a crucial time in politics. With the Scottish elections on the horizon and independence in touching distance, our new team is ready to work hard for Scotland."

The four new members include;

  • Patricia Gibson - Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman
  • Angela Crawley - responsible for Attorney General brief
  • Richard Thomson - Northern Ireland and Wales spokesman
  • Stephen Flynn - Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman

Mr Blackford's news release went on to thank Tommy Sheppard who has now become constitutional affairs spokesman, having moved from his Cabinet Office brief. Neil Gray, who will step down as an MP as he bids to become an SNP MSP in May, was also thanked.

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