Scottish MP who helped oust Boris Johnson for Holyrood career

Wendy Chamberlain, the LibDem MP for North East Fife, is seen as one of the star MPs from the induction of new MPs elected in December 2019.

A relative newcomer to Westminster, she secured an urgent debate that put pressure on Mr Johnson, who was being forced to reverse plans to tear up Westminster’s default system to allow his ally Owen Paterson to escape punishment for breaching lobbying rules .

CONTINUE READING: Who is Peter Murrell, the former SNP chief?

A year and a half later, with the Prime Minister weakened by the Partygate scandal, Ms Chamberlain again went on the offensive against Mr Johnson over the Chris Pincher scandal, a matter which eventually led to Mr Johnson’s resignation.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, Ms Chamberlain, the chief whip of LibDem, pointed to former SNP MP Neil Gray, now an MSP and minister in the Scottish Government, as an example of a politician from another party making the move got from Westminster to Holyrood.

Formerly a LibDem stronghold, the seat was taken by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins in the 2015 general election. He held it by just two votes in 2017, but boundary changes mean the seat will occupy areas that are more SNP-supportive when voters are expected to return to the polls next year.

“I don’t want to make assumptions about people being sent back in North East Fife, so I guess I understand some of the everyday issues that are affecting people on a daily basis,” she said.

“A lot of this is managed by Holyrood, so I sometimes wish to be more directly involved. But beyond that, I didn’t really give it much thought.”


Ms Chamberlain is married to an SNP activist and a former fellow police officer who joined the party when he retired in 2011.

A longtime Lib Dem supporter, she only got involved in politics after the 2015 general election, describing herself as a “quiet no voter” in the independence referendum the year before, while her husband actively campaigned for a yes.

“My husband’s bumper stickers were controversial,” she said.

“But it definitely gets me out of my echo chamber. If Scotland is split down the middle, which polls appear to be, we as a couple are fairly representative of Scotland.”

She said her husband is “fully supportive” of her career, though he’s happy to use “Wastemonster’s” nationalist taunt to poke fun at her workplace.

Unsurprisingly, he does not help with her campaigns and in fact helped get Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville re-elected to her Fife seat.

She said it was too early to tell if her husband’s party would lose support in the next elections following the internal rifts and turmoil of the current party leadership election.

“Although their votes fell slightly during the competition, they are still the dominant force in Scottish politics. Whatever you think about the politics of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, you can admire them as political actors,” she said.

“And what the SNP has to deal with is that their new leader and first minister may not have those skills. Does that mean that a government that has been in power for 16 years and has its challenges is struggling to make its case publicly?

“On the independence front, it seems to me that the independence question has disappeared for the time being. But for me and other pro-British MPs and MSPs, this is breathing space and we need to reshape the UK and what Scotland’s place in it is.”

CONTINUE READING: Sturgeon says husband has ‘right’ to step down as SNP chief

She added that the changes taking place could offer new opportunities for cross-party cooperation.

“I hope it will change some of the very unnerving and divisive politics that we’ve seen and people look to the brand of local politics that the LibDems are known for,” she said.

“I think any politician worth their salt would embrace a more collegial style of politics, as I believe the large number of people entering politics do so to make a difference for their local communities rather than for themselves boast and exchange insults.”

Ms Chamberlain looked back on the Paterson saga and saw it as a moment when the former Tory PM’s fortunes began to change.

“Yes, it certainly went up a notch,” she said, asking if the Paterson episode was the beginning of the end for Mr Johnson. “I remember sitting and waiting [the debate] to start and there was [Labour leader] Keir Starmer and I thought “he’ll have to wait for me to finish as it’s my debate”. So I did it.”


Ms Chamberlain has since continued to work to reform parliamentary standards and has managed to introduce a new rule preventing an MP who has broken a rule from voting on what action will be taken against him or her should.

The former police officer worked in both front-line and non-police roles, including for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), before pursuing careers outside the police force and then getting involved in politics.

In Westminster, Ms Chamberlain has a Private Bill proposing a new flexible entitlement to one week of unpaid leave per year for staff caring for or caring for a dependent with long-term care needs. The bill passed the House of Commons and is due to be debated in the House of Lords. She hopes her bill will complete its successful passage through Parliament this spring.

In addition to her work in the House of Commons, the MP is charged with chairing a LibDem commission on violence against women and girls.

Work is at an early stage and Mrs Chamberlain hopes to present her report to the party ahead of their conference next spring.


Boris Johnson pictured above resigned as Prime Minister in July 2022 after a series of scandals and was replaced first by Liz Truss and then by Rishi Sunak, pictured with Mr Johnson in the House of Commons. Photo PA.

During her police career, she gained first-hand experience dealing with women and children who have been victims of sexual assault.

As criminal justice is decentered, her strategy paper is expected to include recommendations for the UK and Scottish governments.

She also suggested that consideration be given to improving the system for investigating complaints of misconduct in Westminster and Holyrood and in the police service.

Referring to the former institution, she said: “My own view is that the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) is a huge improvement over things that were before.

“I don’t know how it was before because I wasn’t there when it came in. But I still think there are a lot of things that could be done to improve it.

CONTINUE READING: Boris Johnson to release 50-page defense dossier ahead of lie probe

“As a whip, it’s quite difficult. If someone comes to talk to you about a fellow MP and we don’t want you to do anything about it, what do you do with that information? You are not the direct superior of this MP, in fact your manager is not the direct superior of this MP. So how do you deal with it and how do you deal with it?

“Or do you direct someone and say, ‘What are you telling me is within the scope of the ICGS system?’ But the ICG program does not accept third-party referrals. As a whip, my task should be pastoral, but also the disciplinary aspect. How do you reconcile these aspects?

“There are countless problems. If we want more women and more diversity in politics in general, we need to do more to convince people that Westminster and Holyrood are good places to work.”

The LibDems Commission on Violence Against Women and Girls was set up by Acting Police Officer Wayne Couzens after the murder of Sarah Everard.

And last month’s conviction of David Carrick in a series of rapes committed while he was a serving constable put the scandal back in the spotlight.

Both Couzens and Carrick were serving with the Metropolitan Police when their crimes were committed.

CONTINUE READING: Ash Regan team discusses court case to suspend SNP leadership contest

A review of the forces set up after Ms Everard’s murder in 2021 is being conducted by Baroness Louise Casey and is due to be published this week. The force is reportedly expected to be plagued by sexism, racism and homophobia.

Ms Chamberlain pointed out that both men had nicknames, suggesting that colleagues were aware that they were behaving inappropriately towards both women, but their behavior was tolerated.

“What I find enlightening about David Carrick and Wayne Couzens is that they both had their nicknames in their work circles. I’m not suggesting that [conduct they were known for was on the] the same severity as that for which they were convicted, but their behavior was inappropriate. So there was clearly a behavior tolerance issue.”

Ms Chamberlain did not want to go into detail, but at one point during the interview she alluded to her first-hand experience of being the victim of inappropriate behavior as a duty officer.

“I am a 46-year-old woman. I won’t pretend I haven’t experienced that darker side myself. I have my own stories to tell,” she said, referring to her time with Lothian and Borders Police.

She said Police Scotland “shouldn’t consider themselves immune” but also commended police for their “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign, which has focused on convincing men to change their behavior towards women.

One issue she worries about is the current practice in Scottish Police to end a misconduct investigation if an officer resigns.

The situation contrasts with that south of the border, where investigations continue even when an officer leaves.

It was revealed last month that 47 officers in Scotland have resigned or retired during a misconduct trial against them since 2019.

“When I was at Acpos, I was involved a lot with the Police Federation,” she said. “Their raison d’être is openness and effectiveness, so they should be open to change.” Scottish MP who helped oust Boris Johnson for Holyrood career

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