A MAJOR advantage to being a blogging MP, as opposed to being simply a blogger, is that I’m in a position to offer unique insights from the perspective of the House of Commons.
So for instance, you may well have expected me to talk about the drama in the chamber today when John McDonnell tried to make off with the mace in protest at the absence of a vote on Heathrow’s third runway.
Except I can’t, because I wasn’t there.
This always happens to me. Once, during Treasury questions a few years ago, I was sitting next to Dennis Skinner. I left the chamber briefly to make a phone call and as I walked back in, I passed Dennis, who was leaving. He didn’t look particularly fazed or upset, so I thought nothing more of it. It was only later I discovered that a few seconds after leaving the chamber to make my call, Dennis had stood up to accuse “Boy” George Osborne of drug use! He had just been named and suspended from the Commons when I passed him.
And then there was Otis Ferry’s invasion of the chamber during the debate on the ban on fox hunting. I was in the tearoom when that happened and only realised something was up when “Sitting suspended” was displayed on the annunciator.
I was there in 2004, however, when those entirely sane and responsible individuals of Father4Justice* launched their missiles of purple dust from the public gallery of the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions. As I saw the dust descend on the crowded benches, I stood up from my position on the front bench (the front bench that’s actually a back bench, if you follow me) just below the gangway. Sky News, as my big brother Kenny gleefully told me later, showed the same piece of hundreds of times thereafter, apparently showing the Honourable Member for Glasgow Cathcart (as my constituency was then called) jumping up to save his own skin. In fact, I was wearing a brand new suit and was worried about it being stained…
But I wasn’t there today, sadly. As he said himself on TV afterwards, John is not at all a flamboyant MP and he did what he did out of frustration and on behalf of his constituents. He’s paid the price with a five-day suspension. But support for a third runway has been his party’s policy since before the last general election. And however strongly some of his constituents feel against these plans, many, many more, I suspect, owe their jobs, directly or indirectly to Heathrow and might not feel as disappointed today as John clearly does.
* written under legal advice