HENRY DEEDES watches as the Government blocks SNP's Gender Reform Bill

‘It took two seconds before the Scots Nats benches erupted like a superheated tray of unpricked sausages’: HENRY DEEDES watches as the Government blocks Sturgeon’s Gender Reform Bill

Just two seconds was all it took. Alister Jack had been on his feet in the Commons yesterday for a mere two seconds before the Scots Nats benches erupted like a superheated tray of unpricked sausages.

It was a Molotov cocktail of furore and frenzy. ‘Shame!’ they yelled. ‘Rubbish… nonsense!’ And to think – all poor Jack had done at this point was clear his throat.

The Scottish Secretary had come the House to announce he was taking the unprecedented step of blocking Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Scots First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had earlier branded the move a ‘full frontal attack’ on the Scottish Parliament. From the moment Jack entered the chamber, the SNP corner of the Chamber simmered with contempt. Admittedly Mr Jack is not necessarily the most diplomatic vessel to deal with the SNP. He is just the sort of the token Scot that the Nationalists loathe: Received Pronunciation, privately educated, fabulously rich etc.

Admittedly Alister Jack is not necessarily the most diplomatic vessel to deal with the SNP. He is just the sort of the token Scot that the Nationalists loathe: Received Pronunciation, privately educated, fabulously rich etc. It’s possible his experience of life north of the border doesn’t extend much further than a spot of reeling and a bracing morning or two on the grouse moor

It’s possible his experience of life north of the border doesn’t extend much further than a spot of reeling and a bracing morning or two on the grouse moor. Jack gently pointed out that this was the first occasion a Scots law had been blocked in the 25 years since devolution.

And that his reason for blocking it was that the Gender Bill would have a ‘serious adverse effect’ on the UK Equality Act. It was ‘absolutely not,’ he assured the House, ‘about vetoing Scottish law’.

Naturally, his words did little to soothe raw SNP tempers. What a raucous bunch they were. Pony-tailed Chris Law (Dundee W) was up on, down on his feet as though a troop of red ants were marching up his inside leg.

Pete Wishart (Perth) frothed and foamed, his eyeballs, in their customary fashion, set to a high spin.

More from Henry Deedes for the Daily Mail…

Incidentally, one notable absentee: the usually ever-present Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh SW). She fervently opposed Sturgeon’s Gender Reform Bill and paid with her job as a result. Meanwhile, the party’s leader Stephen Flynn kept darting in and out of the chamber. Bathroom issues? More likely he was scrambling to the bat-phone to relay urgent updates back to Auntie Nicola in Holyrood.

Answering for Labour was Jack’s opposite number, Ian Murray. I’ve not seen him in action before. Terrible mumbler. Typically, he dodged the whole gender recognition issue and instead tried to play the grown-up by suggesting both governments knuckle down together to find a solution. ‘Och, grow a backbone!’ cried one of the SNP lot. It was the most sensible contribution any of them made all afternoon.

Leader of Scots Conservatives Douglas Ross rose. He’s the ineffectual one who enjoys spending his spare time acting as linesman at football matches. He accused Nicola Sturgeon of deliberately using the trans issue to manufacture a conflict between the Scottish and UK governments. ‘You should be ashamed of yersel, Dooglas!’ screamed Mhairi Black (SNP, Paisley). Bernard Jenkin (Con, Harwich) turned fire on Labour, accusing them of being ‘political weasels’. Jack grinned and praised little Bernard’s ‘political sagacity’.

The most notable part of the session, however, came when two Labour MPs, Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) and Rosie Duffield (Canterbury) came out strongly against Holyrood’s plans for gender recognition. Duffield, a prominent women’s rights campaigner, spoke of the ‘strength of feeling’ among women against a law which would allow anyone identifying as a woman into female changing rooms or prisons.

The response from the SNP was typically cantankerous. Shouts, jeers – many of them from women by the way.

More telling though were some of the reactions from Duffield’s own benches. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) and Luke Pollard (Plymouth Sutton) shook their heads wearily. Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton Kemptown) even began heckling her. ‘Oh Rosie!’ he moaned.

Hmmm. A proper minefield for Sir Keir Starmer, this one.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn kept darting in and out of the chamber. Bathroom issues? More likely he was scrambling to the bat-phone to relay urgent updates back to Auntie Nicola in Holyrood

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