Outgoing MP Cherry’s word of warning for new women at Westminster - Susan Dalgety

Labour's Scott Arthur celebrates as the SNP's Joanna Cherry bows out at the general election count in EdinburghLabour's Scott Arthur celebrates as the SNP's Joanna Cherry bows out at the general election count in Edinburgh
Labour's Scott Arthur celebrates as the SNP's Joanna Cherry bows out at the general election count in Edinburgh
In the weeks running up to the general election, Joanna Cherry, the former SNP MP for South West Edinburgh, suspected she may lose her seat.

“It’s very close,” she told me. “I may well lose, but I am prepared for that. I have many other things I can do if I am no longer an MP.” Even so, it was still a shock when, at 4.51am on Friday morning, Edinburgh’s returning officer announced that Councillor Scott Arthur, Edinburgh’s "Mr Transport”, was the duly elected MP for the constituency which stretches from Wester Hailes to Gorgie; Balerno to Colinton.

In a remarkable result, mirrored across the city and the rest of the country, Labour’s Scott Arthur overturned Cherry’s near 12,000 majority. “Amazing,” he said on social media, where he posted a selfie brandishing a House of Commons envelope bearing the legend “Member of Parliament”. It no doubt contained his instructions on what to do when he turns up at Westminster to join Labour’s crowded backbenches.

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But there is no envelope for losing MPs, telling them what to do next. So what does the future hold for Joanna Cherry? Luckily, she has an impressive CV. She is a well-regarded KC, and will easily be able to resume her legal career. She has a fearsome reputation as a human rights campaigner and was the highly respected chair of Westminster’s joint select committee on human rights.

And she is a much-loved advocate for women’s rights. Women from all political parties – and none – hold her in great esteem and affection. Her courage in speaking out against self-ID may not have gone down well with many of her SNP colleagues, but it won her many, many admirers across the UK. As one of her constituents posted on social media in the immediate aftermath of the result, she’s a huge loss. She added: “What a fighter. Scott Arthur massive shoes to fill.” But I doubt we have heard the last of Joanna Cherry KC.

We are also about to hear a lot more from three other women who have just been elected Labour MPs in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Trade union official Tracy Gilbert took the North and Leith seat from the SNP’s Deirdre Brock. Kirsty McNeill, a former executive director of Save the Children, won Midlothian, and West Lothian councillor Kirsteen Sullivan is now the MP for Bathgate and Linlithgow. They will join the record number of women elected in parliament at this election, the highest ever.

As Joanna Cherry prepared to leave frontline politics, she had a message for the new Labour government, and by extension, the women who are now at Westminster.

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“The rights of women to dignity, privacy and safety should not be ignored or sidelined by any political leader and we should not be demonised for airing those rights,” she said.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has a long to-do list, from kick-starting economic growth to making Britain a “clean energy superpower”, but he would do well to heed Cherry’s words.

She may no longer be a member of parliament, but Joanna Cherry is still a significant public figure, and she will be watching how a Labour government stands up for women. They have been warned.