Private Eye logo
hp sauce
Tasmina’s ideological odyssey
SNP in Westminster, Issue 1393
POLITICAL BUTTERFLY: The SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh who, when she was a Tory, had ‘a huge ego’ but was ‘very politically naïve’
THE bumper crop of Scottish National Party MPs – including former members of the International Marxist Group, a bus load of town councillors, party apparatchiks, fading TV presenters and welfare rights officers - are a quixotic bunch. But among the Braveheart dreamers, useless time-servers and local authority drongos arriving in Westminster are some seriously ambitious Scots on the make.

One of the most ruthlessly power-hungry Nationalists among the contingent – self-styled as the “fantastic 56” – is Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh OBE. The 44-year-old lawyer, Bollywood actress, women’s rights campaigner, failed Tory candidate, political butterfly and now SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, has been on an ideological odyssey across the political spectrum in search of office.

Young Conservatives
As a teenager she ran the Young Conservatives in Edinburgh Central and was a robust critic of the then SNP leader Alex Salmond during the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s. His description of western action against the dictator Milosevic as “unpardonable folly” proved, said Ahmed-Sheikh, that he was “hopelessly naïve… He is hopelessly out of his depth in the arena of real politics, national, and international.”

Initially the Scottish Tories, wiped out north of the border in 1997, loved the prospect of a young Asian woman playing a prominent role as they tried to rebuild. But after failing to win a seat for the Tories in the first Scottish parliament elections in 1999, Ahmed-Sheikh suddenly discovered she was a nationalist after all and switched sides.

Salmond was gleeful at landing such a glamorous Tory defector, until it was pointed out that his new recruit had made those disobliging remarks several years previously. Salmond’s staff forced her to recant in a humiliating statement.

Labour member
There was further embarrassment when it also emerged that she had been a Labour member in the mid-1990s, when Tony Blair was in the ascendency. It had all been a misunderstanding, she claimed, as her uncle – a Labour councillor – had told her to join the party (for two years) if she wanted to deliver leaflets for him. “All Tasmina needs is the Lib Dems for a full set,” said a former colleague. “But she was far too ambitious to waste her time on the Liberals.”

Someone else who worked closely with her was Clive Schmulian, her Tory election agent in 1999. The experience left him pleased to see her leave the party. “She was desperate for a high profile and has a huge ego but she was very politically naive,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “The SNP are welcome to her. She has very right-wing views and will never fit in with the SNP.”

Friend of Nicola
On the contrary, as a rampant careerist with endlessly adaptable views and an eye for the main chance, Ahmed-Sheikh fitted perfectly. She set about establishing close links with Salmond, and even persuaded him to make a cameo appearance as a ghost in one of her husband’s Bollywood soap operas. But it is the close relationship she forged with Salmond’s successor, Nicola Sturgeon, that has been the making of her.

In a bitter power-struggle with the SNP’s finance minister John Swinney, Sturgeon backed her friend for a place high up the party’s list in the 2014 European elections. When Tasmina subsequently failed narrowly to become an MEP, Sturgeon’s backing was instrumental in securing her one of the most winnable seats in the Westminster election. Safely ensconced in the Commons, this smooth-talking Nationalist is certainly an MP to watch, although her ruthless reputation suggests her colleagues should be watching their own backs when Tasmina is around.

More top stories in the latest issue:

The Tories’ election-winning war chest included a donation from a business partner of the ruling family of oil-rich, human rights-poor Azerbaijan.

David ‘lobbying is the next big scandal’ Cameron makes leading lobbyist George Bridges a peer and gives him a job as a Cabinet Office minister.

George Osborne aide Rupert Harrison, whose pension freedoms tore up the annuity rules, could be heading to a top job at fund manager BlackRock. Fancy!

Andy Burnham may be nosing ahead in the Labour leadership race, but he can’t escape the shadow of the Mid Staffs hospital deaths scandal.

As Labour insiders ’fess up after defeat, the true picture of the Brown-Blair-style distrust between Eds Miliband and Balls now emerges.

How Labour’s David Blunkett, who doesn’t want his party to move ‘far-left’, helps foreign multi-millionaires set up in the UK while avoiding tax.

Meet Lib Dem finance committee chair Peter Dunphy, a businessman with a very non-Lib Dem interest in… tax avoidance film schemes!

No wonder the head of Airbus UK thinks Brexit would be a terrible idea, but the chief exec of JCB says the UK would do just fine outside the EU.

To read all these stories in full, you can buy the latest edition of Private Eye - or subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale:
9th June 2015.
More From This Issue
In The Back
The latest stories
more »
In The Back
A Message
from the Cameron Free School
more »
A Message
All the latest gaffes
more »
Also Available Online
More From This Issue
Private Eye Issue 1393
private eye Only In The Magazine

Ukip’s Supreme Leader Purges Rivals: North Korean Times Exclusive!… Heist thieves not arrested: bankers avoid jail… Homophobic Russia Celebrates Eurovision Success… Qatar Builds State-of-the Art Prisons for World’s Media… Captain of Lib Dem Titanic to be Given Key Role… Those Extremist TV Highlights Mrs May Wants to Ban… The Letters of Bernard Berenson & Kenneth Clark, as told to Craig Brown.

And also...

- A Private Eyeful: We’ve increased the type size to improve legibility… and added more pages, more stories, more jokes and more cartoons! In fact the only thing NOT going up in the new 48-page Private Eye is the price . It’s still only £1.80 (or less if you subscribe).
For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.
Next issue on sale: 9th June 2015.

Private Eye Issue 1392