BEING a member of the Westminster Parliament is a very lonely job, especially if you are from the SNP. The weekly commute to spend four days wholly locked up in a damp, crumbling gentleman’s club is crushingly, physically arduous.

The long hours stuck (literally) to the green benches, listening to tedious and often offensive Tory speeches, is mind-numbingly boring. However, such are the archaic rules of the House, you have to sit there if you want to be “called” to speak.

Nevertheless, dedicated SNP MPs hurl themselves into a staccato of speeches, meetings, adjournment debates and private member’s bills, in a bid to give Scotland a modicum of national recognition in what is effectively the English National Parliament.

Hardly anyone on the Government benches gives a damn. The Palace of Westminster is not a parliament of the four nations of the United Kingdom, it is a hollow debating chamber dominated by the (largely) petty concerns of English backbenchers. Meanwhile, a few hundred yards away in Whitehall, the Government executive does what the hell it likes, for the most part without scrutiny or oversight.

It is against this background that we must judge my old friend and colleague Margaret Ferrier. First the obligatory waiver: Margaret’s lapse of judgment in going to London when she had shown symptoms of Covid- 19 is obvious. To then travel back by train when she had tested positive made that mistake a thousand times worse. Thankfully, she does not seem to be seriously ill, as far as I know. I wish her a speedy recovery.

Nevertheless, she did put others in danger of contracting the virus. As a result, her political career is dead in the water, whether she resigns her seat or not. All that said, I feel deeply for Margaret and find much of the virtue signalling and rush to consign her to political outer darkness both hypocritical and a blatantly self-serving. Margaret Ferrier, in my experience, always put the job before her personal convenience.

I can perfectly understand her motivation in travelling down to London and Westminster – something few SNP MPs do with any relish. She went there – ill-advised as her decision was – to give her Scottish constituents a voice and to try to hold the incompetent, flailing, useless, arrogant, racist “government” (I use the word loosely) of Boris Johnson to account. Personally, I find that somewhat heroic.

READ MORE: Ian Blackford warns Margaret Ferrier: Quit now or risk being forced out

Then Margaret made her tragic decision to flee home. I’ve been an MP and know how lonely London can be. Parliamentary days are long and exhausting. Yet there is not much relief in taking the bus back to an empty, over-priced, and usually miniscule flat for a few hour’s kip, before starting all over again.

Normally, SNP MPs congregate for mutual support and empathy, after an enervating parliamentary day. But the pandemic has limited such interaction. These days, there are fewer SNP members around at Westminster and distancing rules make eating collectively difficult.

I can see how self-isolating in lonely London, with nobody around to help, was a grim prospect Margaret simply could not face. Let those without sin cast the first stone.

Margaret Ferrier, you will remember, first won her Rutherglen seat in 2015. She lost at the disastrous 2017 election, when the SNP’s lacklustre campaign and confused message saw half-a-million natural supporters (mostly working class) fail to come out and vote. But Margaret is a fighter and retook the seat last December.

Three election campaigns in barely four years is a tough call but she put in the hours and delivered Rutherglen and Hamilton West. At no time did anyone in the party call into question Margaret’s capacity for hard work or dedication to the cause. No-one ever said Margaret Ferrier was in politics for the limelight or a ministerial limo.

In fact, Margaret has always been on the left of the party. When she and I were elected to Westminster in 2015, I took the initiative to sound out other socialists and radicals on the left of the Labour Party, to co-ordinate common action against the Tories. This was before Jeremy Corbyn became party leader and the anti-capitalist Labour left – a few dozen MPs at most, by their own estimation – was very isolated.

MARGARET was the only other SNP member who joined me in these discussions. Most of the Labour members we met with were newly elected like ourselves. Later they would become key members of Corbyn’s shadow team.

They included Rebecca Long-Bailey, Richard Burgon and Clive Lewis. But of old-timers on the Labour left, only the visibly ailing Michael Meacher was prepared to talk to the SNP. Our network also included Caroline Lucas, the single Green MP.

I mention this because it shows Margaret Ferrier has a political hinterland. A left-wing hinterland not necessarily shared by everyone in the SNP leadership or Westminster group. Margaret Ferrier is not a flashy orator and therefore never became a media star or party conference icon. But she was immediately visible at Westminster.

Her forte was to turn up at ministerial questions – relentlessly, day in and day out – to interrogate and expose bumbling Tory spokespeople. It was a technique that required stamina, forensic skills, and extreme patience.

It never won Margaret bouquets or column inches, but it embarrassed a lot of Tory ministers. Well done Margaret Ferrier.

Margaret is dedicated enough to find a new role in the movement – provided the virtue signallers in our ranks let her. My gripe is the manner in which she is being treated compared with others, for instance former finance secretary Derek Mackay. Derek’s public disgrace has obviously caused him deep anxieties.

There are media stories suggesting the SNP has paid for counselling.

I hope the party and the Westminster leadership are equally solicitous of Margaret, regardless of her transgressions. Also, I can’t detect the same party pressure on Derek to resign his seat – which he should, by the way.

The feeding frenzy against Margaret has pained me. She’s been attacked by fellow MPs who claimed Margaret had somehow sabotaged the party’s campaign against the odious Internal Market Bill, by diverting the media agenda.

I’ve news for everyone: the UK media are perfectly capable of ignoring SNP activity at Westminster most days of the week. They don’t need an excuse. Conclusion: Westminster has its place, but we will only win independence if we convince folk in Scotland. Which is why the centre of SNP activity must always be here, not London. We are a movement – not a bunch of social media cheerleaders for elected members.

Politics in the 21st century has become intensely personalised.

This is not an accident. The neoliberal era represents a concerted attack by the super-rich to remove all institutions, laws and conventions that limit their right to own the Earth and make money. The dominant ideology of this era is libertarianism, a vacuous doctrine that brands any collective action by the poor, exploited or powerless as totalitarian.

As a diversionary tactic, the media presents politics in terms of personal morality rather than class or national oppression. Margaret Ferrier has fallen foul of this trial by media. But anyone attacking Margaret should beware. Those who don’t stand together will be hung separately.