Knives are out as Stephen Flynn sacks chief whip and Pete Wishart says he is ‘bemused’ by changes in scathing letter

By Bill Heaney

Newly-appointed SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has sacked the party’s chief whip as a senior MP said he was “bemused” by the changes in a letter that hinted at internal civil war.

Owen Thompson has been replaced as the party’s chief whip at Westminster in a surprise first move by Mr Flynn as he overhauls the group’s front bench in the Commons.

Replacement Martin Docherty-Hughes, the West Dunbartonshire MP, affectionately known as Martin the Mouse, has instead been given the role.

Promotion for the Clydebank-based  MP looked unlikely yesterday when Stephen Flynn was making his maiden speech as the new SNP leader since Docherty-Hughes was sitting tightly on the green benches beside the demoted Ian Blackmore.

The move was reported as Mr Flynn sent an email to SNP MPs, confirming he was putting together a “new-look team” over coming days as he seeks to stamp his authority and initiate a tactical shift at Westminster.

New SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn. Picture: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

New SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn. Picture: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament.

The first confirmed change comes as Pete Wishart, the SNP’s MP for Perth and North Perthshire, published a critical letter officially resigning as the Westminster group’s DEFRA spokesman.

In the letter, Mr Wishart said: “We have never had an opportunity to discuss your plans for the group, neither when you were canvassing opinion for a leadership challenge, nor at any point during the very short campaign for the leadership itself.

“I note that you hope to bring positive change to the way the group is run and that you wish to reset the relationship with colleagues in Government and the Scottish Parliament …

“I remain bemused as to the reasons why you felt it was necessary to seek a change in our leadership, particularly when we see yesterday’s opinion poll, which shows support for independence at a near all-time high and support for the SNP at Westminster at an unprecedented 51 per cent.”

Top: Martin Docherty-Hughes has been promoted by new SNP leader Stephen Flynn.

One comment

  1. And why, pray tell, would anyone call him Martin the Mouse.

    Surely a better soubriquet would be Martin the Tiger. He’s down in London fighting for us, relentlessly focussed, utterly committed.

    Martin the Tiger. That’s the descriptor.

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