Category Archives: Parliament

‘Obama, Obama, Obama! Out, out out!’

TOM Watson’s latest Twitter reports that a banner displayed by a protester in Parliament Square carries the legend: “Obama imperialist war monger”.

Already?

I mean, just how pathetic can these people be? As Carolyn was channel hopping this evening she came across Celebrity Big Brother (see what lengths I’ll go to to make sure you don’t think I’m actually watching it?) and even Tommy “the trot” Sheridan was applauding Obama at the end of his inaugural speech.

But anti-Americanism runs deep in the so-called left wing in this country. In 1980 and 1981 I was an active member of CND, three years before I joined the Labour Party. I attended a number of meetings at which President Reagan was regularly attacked and vilified and where the Soviet Union was portrayed as an innocent victim of the Cold War. 

Clearly, for some, the Cold War never ended. Or even worse: the wrong side won.

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16 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, Parliament, Politics

Missing the main events

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

21 Comments

Filed under Economy, Environment, Parliament

I know I’m on a loser here…

… but Cameron is dead wrong in calling for a reduction in the number of MPs.

There, I’ve said it – do your worst…

This kind of promise – like the one made by his predecessor, Michael Howard, before the 2005 election – is lazy and cynical. Also popular, which is why he made it.

But we’re an easy target, aren’t we? No-one’s going to get shouted down for proposing a cut in the number of MPs, or a cut in our salaries, or by demanding we travel everywhere in standard class. A colleague once bitterly said to me: “If the only reward for public service was to be put in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit every month, there would be public demand for it to happen every fortnight.”

Nevertheless, Cameron’s wrong on this. And he’s not doing it out of any kind of principle, other than the principle that whatever benefits his party is a good thing. Yes, there is a pro-Labour bias in the current pattern of seat boundaries, just as there was a pro-Conservative bias in the 1980s (though I don’t remember any Tories complaining about that at the time…). And the reason that bias has developed is because it is actually quite difficult to draw a boundary that will contain a specific number of voters as well as accurately represent and reflect a particular community.

Any perceived bias could just as easily be sorted out by a redrawing of the existing number of seats. Iain Dale points out that while some inner city seats have electorates of about 50,000 (he doesn’t say which, incidentally), the Isle of Wight has about 100,000. So, in the new set up, would there be an Isle of Wight East and an Isle of Wight West, each with 50,000 electors? And if the two Isle of Wight seats have 50,000 electors, does that mean every seat on the mainland should have the same number? Or should 100,000 be the figure we’re aiming at for every seat? You can see where simplistic arguments start to fall down when it comes to the unexpectedly complicated area of boundary maps.

If Cameron wants to make a case for fewer MPs on the basis that we don’t need our current 646, then let him do so. But he shouldn’t simply be calling for an entirely arbitrary just because some seats have more electors than others. 

And he certainly shouldn’t be trying to score cheap political points by having a go at an easy target, made all the more easy by the fact that no bugger ever raises his heads above the parapet to defend us.

More seriously, any political leader may come to regret fueling the already absurdly high levels of anti-politics sentiment in this country.

26 Comments

Filed under Conservative Party, David Cameron, Parliament

Vince’s fantasy politics

THERE’S nothing the Liberals love better than to pretend playing kingmaker in the run-up to general elections.

James Forsyth over at The Spectator Coffee House has picked up on comments by Vince Cable to the effect that the Liberals will only do a deal with the “moral victor” at the election; and interestingly he defines “moral victory” not as winning the highest number of votes, but winning the largest number of seats in the Commons.

Isn’t that an odd definition from a leading Liberal? I would have thought that their blind, religious devotion to proportional representation would have obliged them  to count votes before seats.

I hasten to add that I’m not anticipating a hung parliament (nor a Tory victory, before you ask). But if we have the disaster of a hung parliament inflicted upon us, frankly I don’t mind if any MP of whichever party wishes subsequently to vote to implement a Labour manifesto. However, if the Liberals reckon they can persuade either the Tories or Labour to concede the scrapping of first-past-the-post, they have another think coming.

Whatever the result of the next election, I’m certain there will still be a clear majority in support of the current electoral system. And very few of us would consider sacrificing it for the very dubious privilege of making the Liberals a permanent partner in a coalition government for the rest of time.

So Vince and his pals should perhaps spend a little less time looking through the ministerial Toyota Prius catalogue and more time campaigning to hold on to the seats they already have.

11 Comments

Filed under LibDems, Parliament, Politics

Festive picture caption competition

TAKEN in the Strangers’ Bar just before the start of recess:

img_01311

Note: Entries that include the word “trough” will be eliminated.

22 Comments

Filed under Parliament, Whimsy

Extracurricular activity

WHEN the sensible and loyal Jonathan Isaby of ConservativeHome is unhappy, the Tory Party should sit up and take notice.

Today Jonathan recalls the objection of a Conservative front bencher who didn’t want moved to a higher profile post by David Cameron because he didn’t want to give up his outside interests. “Such an attitude at this juncture is unacceptable,” Jonathan tells his readers.

This is all part of the debate about whether the Shadow Cabinet should give up “lucrative” outside interests. The FT reports that Cameron’s original plan to force his shadow ministers to do so has been shelved.

In fact, I sympathise with the view that MPs should have outside interests, even interests for which (horror of horrors!) they receive payment.

Surely the point of this story is that Cameron’s authority has been dented by his colleagues’ refusal to do as he wanted? And isn’t there an echo here of previous parliaments, when Shadow Cabinet members were reluctant to divest themselves of extra income because they didn’t believe they would become ministers any time soon?

Just asking.

6 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Conservative Party, David Cameron, Parliament

Another Cameron sleight of hand

ONCE again, the Tories are demanding we look at the hand and not the coin.

It is questionanable as to whether Bob Quick was wise to raise his concerns about the actions of the Conservative Party in relation to the police investigation into Damian Green. But instead of addressing the substantive question – have the Conservative Party, deliberately or otherwise, corrupted the inquiry? – they’re demanding an apology from Quick for even suggesting it in the first place.

It was Cameron who, on the day of the opening of parliament, actually said that Green had been arrested on the orders of the government! Presumably, since he has not until now come across as particularly thick, he knew this was a lie. He must have known that to say publicly – in the chamber of the House of Commons, no less – that Green’s arrest was entirely for political reasons, he would undermine the inquiry and make it almost impossible for charges to be brought.

But he has done Green no favours with his silly posturing and headline-hunting at the expense of the process of law. True, there will undoubtedly now be no charges brought. But for those with the judgment to suspend their judgment until all the facts are known (in other words, excluding every member of the Tory Party), there will be a serious question mark hanging over Green: did he escape charges because there was no evidence against him? Or because the Tory Party made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial by bullying the police throughout the length of the inquiry?

22 Comments

Filed under Conservative Party, David Cameron, Parliament