A highly illuminating article by Martin Hannan in today’s National casts the whole Margaret Ferrier affair in a new light. It seems that when she travelled home from London having tested positive for Covid-19 her cognitive function may have been impaired by her immune system’s response to infection. Quite simply, she wasn’t thinking straight – in the truest and most literal sense of that expression.
I confess that despite my extensive reading on the subject since the pandemic started, I had not realised how severe and how common are the mental symptoms linked to Covid-19. I had read of patients reporting feelings of panic and disorientation associated with the onset of Covid-19 but tended to assume this was just the natural reaction to becoming aware that one is infected with a disease which can be fatal. What I missed was the seemingly established fact that the mental symptoms are evident before the person is even aware of being infected. That is just one more effect of Covid-19 added to a list that seems to lengthen by the day.
I have not had much to say about Margaret Ferrier’s behaviour. Apart from approving her immediate suspension by the SNP and agreeing with Nicola Sturgeon’s sharp condemnation of Ferrier’s actions, I have deliberately refrained from comment. Mainly because I prefer not to be associated with the kind of rabid witch-hunt which inevitably ensued on social media.
Margaret Ferrier’s behaviour was perplexing in that what she did was just so obviously wrong it is difficult to understand why any mature person with fully functioning faculties would do such a thing. With the benefit of hindsight I now realise that I and probably many others found it easy to dismiss this behaviour as arising from selfish stupidity because Margaret Ferrier is an MP. We have come to think of selfishly stupid behaviour as normal for politicians because there are so many instances in which selfish stupidity is the only and correct explanation.
I and probably many others may owe Margaret Ferrier an apology. Those who piled onto the bandwagon of abusive witch-hunters more than those who opted to keep their own counsel as the situation developed and further information became available.
Martin Hannan repeatedly makes the point that the cognitive impairment associated with Covid-19 doesn’t excuse Margaret Ferrier’s behaviour. He may be right. But it does help to explain it. And it may give us cause to reflect on our default assumptions about politicians and any tendency to act unthinkingly on those dubious assumptions. After all, isn’t acting unthinkingly exactly what Margaret Ferrier is being condemned for?
What’s that Biblical thing about motes and beams?