Blackford to face angry SNP MPs as Grady harassment case fallout mounts

IAN Blackford’s authority over the SNP’s Westminster group appears to be ebbing amid continuing fallout from the sexual harassment case against its former chief whip Patrick Grady.

The party has been turmoil since the authorities handled its report into Mr Grady’s behaviour, with its MPs divided over how the crisis has beend.

Last night, one SNP MP issued a lengthy written statement and apologised after previously agreeing with Mr Blackford, and urging her colleagues to “rally round” their disgraced colleague. Earlier yesterday another criticized the party’s complaints and disciplinary processes.

The SNP Westminster chief will face his MPs at 6pm this evening during their regular group meeting which is expected to take place in Commons committee room 21.

One insider said: “The mood has been unpleasant for months, years really. It’s a vicious enivronment.”

Meanwhile, Mr Grady’s victim, an SNP member of staff who was 19 at the time of the incident in 2016, has raised the possibility of legal action against the party.

He said last week he has not been supported and has been left isolated by members of the Westminster group.

Mr Blackford faced calls over the weekend to step down, after a recording was leaked to the press of him telling his group they should give Mr Grady their “full support”.

At the same meeting SNP MP Amy Callaghan and colleague Marion Fellows also threw their weight behind Mr Grady.

Ms Callaghan told the group: “I think we should be rallying together for this campaign, but also regardless of our position on Patrick’s situation, we should be rallying together around him to support him at this time as well.

“I don’t think we are very good as a party at supporting each other and I think we should be making sure that he feels supported at this point, so if we can all reach out to him, or do so if you feel able to, we should probably be doing that.”

In a statement posted on Twitter late yesterday afternoon she apologised.

“This can and should only start with a wholehearted apology to anyone – especially survivors of harassment – ​​who has been hurt or triggered as a result of this week,” she wrote.

“Whilst I can’t forgive myself for how inappropriate it was for me to frame my input in this way, I owe everyone, not least survivors and my constituents, an explanation:

“I am both sorry and ultimately take full responsibility for my words, as insensitive, poorly-worded and misplaced as they were.

“I’m taking full accountability for the hurt and disappointment I’ve caused, not least of all to those directly impacted by sexual misconduct in this case.

“Survivors must be supported. I should have prefaced my comments and reiterated this throughout my contribution. I I was in a situation where my believed support of survivors was implied.

“I was wrong. This isn’t good enough. My comments without this context absolutely warrant the upset they have causes. I am truly sorry.

“As a party we are clearly falling short in supporting complainants.”

Mr Blackford is heard saying in the leaked recording: “I think most of you know how I feel about Patrick and I would encourage the group to deliver as much support as possible.

“And let’s look forward to next week, he is going to face a number of challenges over the short term and he has our absolute full support. And I for one, very much looking forward to welcoming Patrick back into the group next week.”

The SNP MP Joanna Cherry yesterday criticizing the party’s complaints system. The intervention by the party’s former justice and home affairs spokeswoman came after members of the group were with prosecution by its chief threat whip over the recording and leaking of the meeting.

“I wasn’t at the SNP Westminster group meeting last week. I don’t condone the covert recording or leak. However, for some time the SNP has had significant problems in how it handles complaints,” she tweeted.

“My party needs to reflect on the contrast between the treatment of different ‘offenders’ and to review our arrangements for the pastoral care of complainers.”

In their report’s parliament sleaze watchdog, the Independent Expert Panel, said Mr Grady “made a sexual advance to the complainant” which was “clearly sexual in intent and manner, and clearly inappropriate.”

He apologised for his behavior and has been suspended by the parliamentary authorities for two days. The SNP have withdrawn the party whip from him for the same period.