Ian Blackford’s seven best moments as SNP Westminster leader

IAN Blackford has spent the past five years facing down four prime ministers as SNP Westminster leader but has now confirmed he will be standing down and making way for a new face.

We’ve taken a look back at some of his finest moments in the House of Commons over the past half a decade…

SNP group walkout

Without a doubt, Blackford’s most iconic moment was back in June 2018 when he led a mass walkout by the entire group of SNP MPs in protest of a “power grab” by Westminster.

The SNP argued the UK Government was keeping hold of powers that should go to Holyrood after Brexit and Blackford tried to invoke a parliamentary procedure during PMQs when he requested that the House “now sits in private” to debate the issue.

READ MORE: Who is Stephen Flynn? The MP who’s favourite to replace Ian Blackford

After exchanges with Theresa May and Speaker of the House John Bercow, Blackford was asked to resume his seat. He refused and was subsequently thrown out and his fellow MPs followed.

Membership of the SNP soared following the incident, with 7000 joining in the five days that followed.

Kicked out for calling Boris Johnson a liar

At the start of the year, Blackford was thrown out of the House by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle after accusing former prime minister Johnson of misleading MPs.

Blackford found himself in a tense back-and-forth with Hoyle after making the statement and when he refused to withdraw his comments, Hoyle announced he would be removing the SNP MP from the Chamber. Blackford had actually already left before he could finish the process.

Blackford had heavily criticised the findings of the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties, branding it a “fact-finding exercise with no facts”.

He pointed out that Johnson told the House all guidance was followed, and he believed he’d been at a work event. He said: “Nobody believed him then and nobody believes you now Prime Minister … he has wilfully misled parliament.”

Johnson is compared to Monty Python character

Ripping into Johnson defined a large part of Blackford’s tenure as SNP group leader, and one of his best moments came when he compared Johnson to the Black Knight in Monty Python after 41% of his own MPs said they didn’t have any confidence in him.

Blackford was heavily heckled during the exchange, but he held firm and delivered a memorable speech.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Blackford said: “When I’ve called on this Prime Minister to resign, I’ve always been met by a wall of noise from the Tory benches. I always thought they were trying to shout me down. But, all this time, it turns out that 41% of them have actually been cheering me on.”

He continued: “We now have a lame-duck prime minister presiding over a divided party in a disunited kingdom. So how does the Prime Minister expect to continue when even the unionist leaders in Scotland won’t back him?”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon reacts to Ian Blackford quitting as SNP group leader

“The prime minister is acting like Monty Python’s Black Knight, running around declaring that it’s just a flesh wound. No amount of delusion and denial will save the prime minister from the truth – this story won’t go away until he goes away.”

Facing down fat-shaming

On more than one occasion, Blackford was subjected to snide comments about his weight by Johnson.

In January this year, Johnson said “I don’t know who has been eating more cake” after reports came out Johnson had a surprise birthday party for himself during lockdown in June 2020. 

Then at the end of March, Johnson had another dig and said “he like me is a living testament to the benefits of moderation in all things” to Blackford after he was pressed on what he would order the chancellor to do to help struggling families with rising energy bills.

On both occasions, Blackford seemed unfazed as he branded Johnson’s response on the second occasion as “absolute baloney” and accused the then-PM of being “dangerously out-of-touch” with society.

‘Feeling sorry’ for Douglas Ross

In April, Blackford said he “felt sorry” for the Scottish Tory leader because his career had been “ruined” by the then prime minister Johnson.

He told MPs that Ross had been “thrown under the Boris bus” as he dressed down the Scottish Tories during a debate on whether to refer Johnson to a committee to investigate whether he lied to parliament over breaking Covid rules.

READ MORE: Scotland reacts as Ian Blackford steps down from SNP Westminster role

At the time, Ross had withdrawn his calls for Johnson to stand down despite him being found to have broken the law during lockdown – suggesting the Ukraine crisis made it an inappropriate time for a change of leadership.

Blackford said: “For most people, it’s understandable that their main reaction to the flipflopping Scottish Tory leader on his support for the Prime Minister is disbelief and justified anger but I have to admit when I reflect on the position of [Ross] my main reaction is something I know he will appreciate far, far less.

“I actually feel sorry for him.”

The Euros joke

Ahead of Scotland’s clash with England at Euro 2020, Blackford had MPs in stitches when he made a Brexit-fuelled joke about the match.

He wished both teams well, but couldn’t resist adding in a little dig.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “Good wishes to both Scotland and England ahead of the football match on Friday evening.”

Referencing the SNP’s longstanding mantra on Brexit, he added: “If I may say so, I do hope we don’t see Scotland being dragged out of the Euros against our wishes.”

The Commons erupted in laughter. 

A love for his sheep

Outside of his job as SNP Westminster leader, Blackford was well-known and admired for his many posts about he life of his much-loved sheep.

He has often given us running commentary on their antics, particularly during lambing season. 

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