SNP elects Stephen Flynn as Westminster leader: MP sees off Alison Thewliss for the party’s top job


Nicola Sturgeon suffered a ‘personal humiliation’ last night as a rebel Nationalist MP seized control of the party’s Westminster group.

Stephen Flynn was elected by his fellow MPs as the new SNP leader in the House of Commons after defeating Alison Thewliss, the favoured candidate of those most loyal to the First Minister.

It completes a rebellion by a group of politicians who want more divergence from party HQ after Ian Blackford was ousted last week and led to claims Miss Sturgeon’s ‘once-iron grip on her party is slipping’.

Mr Flynn, previously the SNP’s business spokesman at Westminster, won the contest by 26 votes to 17.

Stephen Flynn, who was first elected in 2019, replaces Ian Blackford as Westminster leader for the SNP

Stephen Flynn, who was first elected in 2019, replaces Ian Blackford as Westminster leader for the SNP

The contest was triggered by Mr Blackford's resignation last week. The former leader will become the SNP's ambassador to business

The contest was triggered by Mr Blackford’s resignation last week. The former leader will become the SNP’s ambassador to business

Minutes after he was elected, he denied he had completed a coup – but said a ‘fresh approach’ was needed.

Mhairi Black was also elected as deputy leader in a move which could add to tensions within the party.

She has criticised Miss Sturgeon’s response to her Supreme Court defeat on attempts to secure an independence referendum.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: ‘Stephen Flynn’s victory over Nicola Sturgeon’s candidate is a personal humiliation for the First Minister and lays bare the deep splits within the SNP.’

He added: ‘Now, having persuaded Alison Thewliss to stand as the ‘stop Flynn’ candidate, Nicola Sturgeon has been overruled again by her rebellious Westminster MPs.

‘It’s clear the First Minister’s once-iron grip on her party is slipping. This result is sure to lead to increased tensions between the SNP leaders at Westminster and Holyrood, not least over oil and gas policy, where Mr Flynn – a serial flip-flopper on this issue – is, for the moment, at odds with Miss Sturgeon.’

Mr Flynn’s success was built on support from MPs who want the group at Westminster to be more independent from Miss Sturgeon and others in party HQ.

In contrast, Miss Thewliss had stressed her pro-Sturgeon credentials in the run-up to the vote. She told colleagues she would stand for ‘teamwork’, adding: ‘We’re strongest when we work together.’

Aged 34, Mr Flynn becomes the youngest leader in the Commons. His deputy Miss Black is only 28.

He will go up against Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions later today in his first full day in his new role.

Allies of Miss Sturgeon are said to have pushed for a candidate who would be ‘more of a bridge’ with the party’s leadership than Mr Flynn, an MP for Aberdeen South who has previously spoken up for the North Sea industry despite the First Minister announcing her opposition to new oil and gas fields.

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, failed to get the number of votes needed at the party's AGM to beat Mr Flynn despite reportedly being First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's favoured candidate

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, failed to get the number of votes needed at the party’s AGM to beat Mr Flynn despite reportedly being First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s favoured candidate

Mhairi Black, who became an MP in 2015 at the age of 21, becomes Deputy SNP Westminster leader

Mhairi Black, who became an MP in 2015 at the age of 21, becomes Deputy SNP Westminster leader

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: ‘The election of Mr Flynn as SNP group leader may be a two-finger salute to Nicola Sturgeon but it is also the act of a desperate group.’

He added it was ‘nothing more than shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic’.

Following his appointment last night, Mr Flynn rejected claims there had been a ‘coup’, saying ‘far too many people have been watching House of Cards’. Asked what he will do differently, he told Sky News: ‘We’ve all got individual styles, don’t we?’

Pressed on what his was, he said: ‘Assertive, to say the least.’ He praised the ‘fantastic job’ done by Mr Blackford and said they were ‘really good friends’ but added: ‘I’m looking forward to building on his legacy with Mhairi at my side, my fantastic colleague, and we can take that fresh approach into Westminster and make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard.’

Lib Dem Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine said: ‘This is a nasty rebuke for Nicola Sturgeon as it looks as if her preferred candidate has lost heavily.

‘Stephen Flynn takes over a divided Westminster group obsessed with completely the wrong priorities.

‘With energy bills and inflation soaring and public services feeling the strain, he should tell his parliamentary group to get on with what really matters.’

SNP politicians congratulated Mr Flynn on the result of the contest and said they looked forward to 'working to deliver independence'

SNP politicians congratulated Mr Flynn on the result of the contest and said they looked forward to ‘working to deliver independence’

On social media after the result was announced, Miss Sturgeon said: ‘Congratulations to new SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn and deputy leader Mhairi Black – a truly formidable team.

‘Looking forward to working with them both.’

Miss Black said: ‘I’m delighted to have been elected as SNP Westminster deputy leader and look forward to working closely with Stephen Flynn and MPs across the parliamentary party as we stand up for Scotland and make the case for independence.’



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