Ayesha Hazarika’s State of the Nation: Nicola Sturgeon appeared on Edinburgh Fringe aware of misogyny – but lacked examples from her own ranks – Hannah Brown

Nicholas Sturgeon. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Greeted by a round of applause, the Prime Minister walked on stage on Ayesha Hazarika’s State of the Nation: Power, Politics and Tractors on Saturday with a bounce in his step, seemingly relaxed with parliament on recess.

She was quick to rally her audience, joking with the host and other panelists, including comedians Rosie Holt and Geoff Norcott.

Introducing the Prime Minister as the ‘Beyonce of Scottish independence’, Hazarika turned to the ‘absurd tractor in the room’ – the sex scandals.

Nicola Sturgeon speaking at Ayesha Hazarika: State of the Nation – Power, Politics and Tractors at the Edinburgh Fringe. Photo: Hannah Brown/National World

Inspired by MP Neil Parish’s resignation – after he said he had accidentally viewed pornography in the Commons while browsing a tractor website – Hazarika’s Fringe bid promised to tackle the string of recent parasite cases sex in Westminster.

A promising start but one that quickly dwindled as there were easy issues encountered with yet more commentary on the culture of misogyny in all areas of society, instead of focusing on particular party issues.

Hazarika warned me well, for an interview for Scotland last Sunday, that she was not “the love child of Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley”, but that didn’t stop me from be a little disappointed.

The prime minister was asked what she thought of Parish’s behavior. She joked: ‘He’s a Tory MP, what did people expect?

A laugh followed, perhaps to be expected when joking about the Tories in Scotland.

Yet the Prime Minister was able to bring attention back to the seriousness of sexual assault.

“We’re laughing here because it’s a comedy show,” Ms Sturgeon said. “But men using porn aren’t so funny because it’s the sharp end of something much more serious.”

And she is absolutely right. While this is a nonsensical excuse to watch porn, there is something very insidious about the way society often excuses men for taking responsibility through humor.

The prime minister even said that women are forced to make excuses for men when it comes to this behavior. Another remark that pleased the crowd and any woman who felt the burden of it.

But was there any mention of SNP villains during the show? Not at all and I couldn’t help but feel a bit betrayed by this omission.

Hazarika briefly mentioned that the SNP had had “a lot of scandals”, but then focused on how society could change the culture.

The Prime Minister was comfortable knowing that no questions about disciplining real-life ‘problems’ in her party were going to arise.

In fairly recent news, SNP MP Patrick Grady has walked away from his party membership after it was discovered he made a sexual advance on a teenage SNP staff member.

During the show, the prime minister decided to focus on how society and men in general need to change their behavior instead.

All points are valid, but these comments are the equivalent of sharing an Instagram post about how to call a sexual assault, but then ignoring a friend who tells you they were sexually harassed by someone you you know.

We need a space to address the culture of sexism and misogyny, but we also need a space where our politicians are candid about the particular issues of their own parties.

Hannah Brown, political journalist

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