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Point of Order

Volume 679: debated on Wednesday 2 September 2020

You have given me notice of this point of order, Mr Blackford, and it is important to clear up this matter. I would not normally allow urgent questions or statements to be interfered with in this way, but on this occasion I will allow it.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; I am most grateful.

On Friday 21 August, the Daily Mail ran a front-page story revealing the location of the Prime Minister’s holiday in Scotland. This was a violation of his family’s privacy that neither myself nor my party in any way condone. Later the same day, a senior Conservative source in Downing Street told The Sun newspaper:

“The finger of blame for this all getting out is being pointed at the SNP, particularly Ian Blackford who is local.”

This was subsequently repeated in a number of newspapers and broadcast outlets.

This allegation and briefing was entirely and deliberately false; it was a targeted political smear from the Prime Minister’s office. The photographer who provided the material for the original Daily Mail front-page later confirmed that I was not the source in revealing the Prime Minister’s location—a location, I might add, I was not even aware of. However, by this point, the damage was done.

This matter has not only been the worst kind of political smear; the false allegation has equally resulted in security implications for myself and my family, given its serious and personal nature. [Interruption.] I can see the Prime Minister pulling a face, but all we have to do is go to social media to see the threats I was then forced to witness.

It is a very serious situation when the apparatus of the UK Government can be deployed in this way, manufacturing false briefings in order to attack an Opposition politician. I raised this issue with the Prime Minister’s office in writing. However, as I have not received a response, I am raising this point of order today to ensure that these false briefings are now stopped and are never repeated for any parliamentarian.

May I first say what a wonderful staycation holiday I had in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, what a fantastic part of the world it is, and how thoroughly I commend it to everybody? It is an absolutely beautiful location and he is very lucky to represent it.

On the substantive point that the right hon. Gentleman raises, I am very happy to accept the assurances that he gives. However, he talks about going to social media and I just draw his attention to a tweet by a chap called Torcuil Crichton on 17 August, saying,

“Ferocious midge count in Wester Ross tonight, I hear. Must be bad if you’re fair-skinned and camping”,

to which an account that purports to be the right hon. Gentleman’s—but I am sure that it is not because of what he has just said—says,

“I wonder if an education at Eton stands you in good stead for these blighters.”

Anyway, I am happy to accept his assurances and his protestations, and I think we should leave it at that, Mr Speaker.

What I would like to say, obviously—[Interruption.] Mr Brennan, please. May I just say that what I am very concerned about is the security implications for the Prime Minister and the security implications for the parliamentary leader of the SNP? Please may I just say to everyone, let us be very careful and learn from this? Obviously, this is on the record from both parties, and I hope we can draw a line under it, but please let us take each other’s security very, very seriously. Thank you.

Sitting suspended.