The BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg waded into the row over the SNP Commons walkout with flimsy evidence. But SNP MPs and officials were not impressed.
During Prime Minister’s Questions on 13 June, the SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford asked the speaker to use a parliamentary device to call for a vote to sit in private. Blackford wanted to know what his party could do to make the government understand Scotland’s concerns about an “unprecedented power grab” during Brexit discussions.
The speaker denied his request and banned Blackford from parliament for the day when he refused to sit down. This prompted a mass walkout of SNP MPs.
There was much ensuing speculation over whether the walkout was a planned stunt – something Blackford denied. So Kuenssberg tweeted about it, using an email from the SNP to show the walkout was “planned”:
Pretty clear SNP walkout was part of planned campaign effort – fair enough but not exactly an impromptu event pic.twitter.com/sKvdt688Rm
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) June 13, 2018
But as SNP strategist Ross Colquhoun pointed out:
📱 Laura, @theSNP's digital team can send out an email in less than 6 hours. Thanks for highlighting our work.
— Ross Colquhoun (@rosscolquhoun) June 13, 2018
An SNP MP also took issue with Kuenssberg’s tweet:
Laura, this is just plain nonsense. Perhaps ask us rather than assuming that to be the case because our highly dynamic HQ team can fire out an email a mere 3 or 4 hours after the event!
— Gavin Newlands MP (@GavNewlandsSNP) June 13, 2018
As did Stewart Maxwell, special adviser to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon:
Because @bbclaurak seems to believe that it takes many, many hours to send an email.
— Stewart Maxwell (@Maxwellsnp) June 13, 2018
And as others pointed out, the SNP didn’t necessarily plan for the speaker’s reaction:
Had Bercow dome what protocol demanded and not kicked Blackford out there would not have been a walk out. Blackford ' colleagues supported him when Bercow who is hardly a figure of tolerance went a step too far and punished democracy.
— scott mcnaughton (@RedcliffeScott) June 14, 2018
Not really, Laura. Ian Blackford was entitled to the division and Bercow made a huge error ejecting him. You don’t plan for incompetence from the speaker, surely?
— Colbangers (@colbangers) June 13, 2018
Other Twitter users asked whether she had any better evidence than this one email:
Show proof of your assertion. Cause that wee screen grab isn't.
— Bill Forgie (@amaginnit) June 14, 2018
Evidence is everything
The degree to which the events at PMQs were deliberate or planned is speculation. Blackford knew what he was going to ask. And it’s certainly very possible he and the SNP talked about what they would do if and when the speaker denied his request.
But if BBC journalists are going to tweet evidence that something was “planned”, that evidence should be solid. And in this case, the evidence was sadly lacking.
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