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Agencies Policy & Regulation

MP Pete Wishart talks failing ethics in political comms and MPs chasing media limelight

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By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

March 15, 2024 | 4 min read

The longest currently-serving SNP MP at Westminster and former Big Country and Runrig musician is the latest UK political heavyweight to feature on The Drum’s Politics for Drummies podcast.

SNP MP Pete Wishart

SNP MP Pete Wishart is latest guest on The Drum's Politics for Drummies podcast / Chris McAndrew, Creative Commons

Speaking to podcast host Alastair Duncan, MP for Perth and Kinross Pete Wishart reflects on over two decades at Westminster, on honesty in the upper echelons of power and how the recent SNP leadership contest, which saw SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon replaced by Hamza Yusef, played out publicly.

“I’m a musician who found themselves somehow in the House of Commons and I’m not totally clear about how I actually managed to do that,” says Wishart.

“I can’t actually believe that I’ve spent so much of my life – almost about a third of it now – being a politician. It was something I never had any real expectations to do. I do enjoy it immensely. I feel quite privileged by the fact that we [politicians] get the opportunity to speak up for our constituents and, hopefully constructively, engage in the designing of the laws of this country.”

Wishart was forced to watch from the sidelines as his former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon became embroiled in several financial scandals and faced serious questions over the handling of the Alex Salmon sexual harassment complaints case, the gender reform debate and the ongoing independence debate.

“I don’t think the leadership contest was played out particularly well and I’m not entirely sure it showed the party at its best, but I think we’re getting through it… We’re caught up in a new political environment that probably isn’t the one that we choose to fight the current election on. It has been a tough year for us, but the cost of independence doesn’t seem to have suffered at all, with opinion polls just now showing the SNP perhaps just a few points down.”

Honesty within political circles is another area Wishart covers, with him squarely blaming the approach during the last Government at the door of former PM Boris Johnson.

“The idea of lying and telling the truth has been a feature of this Parliament, more so than it’s been of the last five parliaments I’ve been involved in. I think that’s to do with a certain Prime Minister with a crop of blond hair… We’re all presumed to be honorable. I think the idea of truth is something that starts coming to the very top of the political agenda. Political parties generally are quite circumspect when it comes to this and I think there’s a huge question around unregulated political communications. The general public has an expectation to assume that political communications from politicians and government are truthful.”

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