John takes his place at Westminster

editorial image

The SNP’s John Nicolson became East Dunbartonshire’s new MP earlier this month - one of 56 nationalists to be elected. He recently joined his new colleagues at Westminster and wrote about the experience for the Herald.

The shocking thing about becoming an MP is how quickly it happens.

Last Thursday night I was pacing the floor of The Bishopbriggs Leisuredrome watching bundles of ballots pile up. As a television journalist, I was well aware that the cameras were watching. Candidates’ facial expressions are closely monitored for signs of pleasure or dismay.

When the returning officer made her announcement to us in private first, and then on stage moments later, I was acutely conscious that I had to make a speech which embraced people in East Dunbartonshire who’d voted for me and those who hadn’t. Politics shouldn’t be tribal.

Within seventy two hours I was standing in Central Lobby, a small green and gold Portcullis sticker on my lapel, marking me out as a new member.

The press has been fascinated by our arrival. As a journalist I’ve always been a fervent defender of my fellow hacks’ trade. But I suspect some of the nonsense written in the first few days is a portent. The ‘Mail’ reported that we’d been “ordered” by Nicola Sturgeon to fly down on a single plane as a show of strength. This was simply made up. We travelled separately. There was also the vitally important issue of young Mhairi Black MP’s eating choices. Much was made of her first Westminster meal. “Twenty-year-old eats chips” made for banner headlines by some of Fleet Street’s finest.

My first post election television outing was on Andrew Neil’s daytime show ‘The Daily Politics’ to talk about my week, and specifically how easy I’d find it to move from asking questions to answering them. I’ve wondered this myself. How hard can it be to respond to questions directly? Some politicians do. I’m going to try to join their number. I’m also going to avoid the word “frankly” which has become a verbal tic for many elected members sitting in TV studios.

Back in the Commons, and the senior Conservative tasked with instructing us about Commons procedure patiently explained that it’s unparliamentary to describe fellow members as blackguards or pipsqueaks.

He also warned us gravely that clapping in the Chamber is ‘deplored’. SNP members responded by applauding warmly.

A week in, and I have a cloakroom peg complete with silk ribbon for my sword. But in common with other new members, I’ve yet to be given a desk or phone.

I’ll keep you updated.