Tag Archives: Parliament

Alistair Carmichael MP writes…The truth about those “secret Tory talks”

A couple of weeks ago I was due to meet with one of my counterparts in the Conservative whips office. These meetings are routine and are not normally the subject of comment.  This particular meeting was intended to deal with allocation of offices between the parties for MPs to use. In fact the meeting did not go ahead although I DID meet the Government Chief Whip’s Private Secretary (known inside the bubble as the usual channels).

The meeting that did not happen (mundane though it was) somehow found its way into the Daily Mail who proceeded to speculate wildly about whether the meeting was indeed a sign that the Lib Dems were now cosying up to the Tories to stitch up a secret coalition deal.

Of course at that time the Conservatives were trying to negotiate a deal with the DUP, negotiations were going badly (due mostly to their own mismanagement).  Briefing the press in this way was a mark of the desperation with which they were seized.

So when I read in the Times yesterday that Tim Farron’s chief of staff Ben Williams had met with his No 10 counterpart Gavin Barwell last Thursday I took it with a pinch of salt. Not least because I knew that Ben was in Leeds on Thursday.

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Christine Jardine finds a way to raise concerns about job losses

Last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced that it was cutting 443 jobs in Britain. This is of great concern to our new Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine, for three reasons. First of all, the bank’s HQ is in her constituency, secondly local businesses might be affected by the quality of service and, thirdly, could this be yet another effect of Brexit.

She wanted to find a way to raise this in the House, but how? She wasn’t down to make her Maiden Speech until Wednesday and it couldn’t wait until then. Back in the day, you couldn’t say anything until you had done that, but there was a way. She used the device of a point of order. That way, it is on the Parliamentary record that she raised it quickly. Speaker John Bercow knew exactly what she was up to but both he and Brexit Secretary David Davis praise her ingenuity. Watch the exchange here. The text is below.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As a new Member, I wonder whether the Chair can advise on the most effective way of raising the worrying news from my constituency today that the Royal Bank of Scotland has announced more than 400 job losses, to ascertain the potentially serious economic implications and whether this is in any way connected to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Lady is undoubtedly a new Member, but she is clearly not a novice in finding very public opportunities to air her concerns on behalf of her constituents. The short answer is that she has of course already aired that concern through the device—or ruse in this case—of a perhaps slightly bogus point of order. However, my advice to her is that she should seek to question Ministers either orally at the appropriate time—there are many such opportunities, on which her colleagues can advise her—or through written questions. If, however, she wishes to dilate on the matter more fully and to hear a Minister do so in response, the mechanism available to her is an Adjournment debate. She should wend her way to the Table Office, where she will find highly qualified and very conscientious staff, who are only too happy to advise her. I just have a sense that we are going to hear further from the hon. Lady on this matter, and probably before very long.

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Tom Brake’s quiet revolution – but there’s so much more that should change about the Commons

Tom Brake achieved a bit of a baby step towards the 21st Century for MPs this week when he had the audacity to ask a Minister a question while not wearing a tie. Heaven forfend!

Conservative MP Peter Bone grassed him up to the Speaker and asked if the rules had changed. John Bercow replied that as long as the attire was “business-like” it was fine. No tie was necessary.

 So far as the Chair is concerned, I must say to the hon. Gentleman, although I fear this will gravely disquiet him, that it seems to me that as long as a Member arrives in the House in what might be thought to be business-like attire, the question of whether that Member is wearing a tie is not absolutely front and centre stage. So am I minded not to call a Member simply because that Member is not wearing a tie? No. I think there has always been some discretion for the Chair to decide what is seemly and proper. Members should not behave in a way that is disrespectful of their colleagues or of the institution, but do I think it is essential that a Member wears a tie? No. Opinions on the hon. Gentleman’s choice of ties do tend to vary, and it has to be said that the same could be said of my own.

This is of course not the first time that Lib Dem MPs have been at the forefront of such change. It was Duncan Hames who took his baby son through the division lobby back in 2014.

So that’s all well and good, but what about addressing some of the bigger issues about the way the Commons operates? There is so much else that needs to change to bring the Parliament closer to the people. Anyone watching the proceedings for the first time would not feel that they had any relevance in the real world.

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WATCH: Christine Jardine’s maiden speech

Christine Jardine made her maiden speech this afternoon. The text will follow when it is available.

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WATCH: Layla Moran’s maiden speech

There is a plot afoot for all the newbies to make their maiden speeches during the Queen’s Speech debate. We’ll bring them to you. Here is Layla Moran’s from yesterday. The text is below:

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Time for a coalition…of common sense

The General Election has left most Liberal Democrats feeling flat and hugely disappointed. We had hoped to create a springboard in the earlier Local Government elections, but fell short. (In many cases, like mine, frustratingly close, but still short.)

So now, with our commitment to enter no deals with either Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn, the party will continue to struggle to find any independent influence.

A weak and wobbly minority government, with its damaged, exposed Prime Minister and with an official opposition living in financial La-La Land, mean that the Liberal Democrats should be at least seen as a viable alternative opposition.

Instead, we have (in sad circumstances) lost our leader, and don’t have a universally appealing candidate with which to replace him. The Tories are likely to change their leader before their conference in October, but only have appalling candidates with which to replace her. Bizarre, isn’t it, that Corbyn is the most stable party leader!

And if there is another General Election, what likelihood is a vastly different outcome? Labour would say they would get elected. But that ignores that many former Labour supporters held their noses at the Polls to stop May, not to support Corbyn. Who wants another Election, only to return another hung parliament? (Not Brenda from Bristol, that’s for sure.)

There is one key issue for this Parliament – Brexit. We now have Phillip Hammond, with increased influence, proposing a much “softer” approach. Indeed, between him and Keir Starmer, there is now little to differentiate.

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It’s Jo v Bo as Lib Dems announce Shadow Cabinet

Tim Farron has tonight announced a new Shadow Cabinet to make use of the talents of the newly expanded Parliamentary Party

Jo Swinson was always going to get one of the big 3 jobs, and it will be her mission to bring Boris Johnson down to earth from his flights of fancy.

Vince, predictably, is back in his role as Shadow Chancellor and Tom Brake has an incredibly tough act to follow as he takes on the Brexit brief which was formerly held by Nick Clegg.

Ed Davey gets Home Affairs and Norman Lamb sticks with his field of expertise of Health.

One big omission is someone in the Commons to speak up on Welsh matters as we lost our only Welsh MP last week. Christine Humphreys will be in charge of this portfolio from the Lords.

The new MPs are playing to their strengths, too. Former journalist Christine Jardine gets Culture, Media and Sport. Former teacher Layla Moran gets education and Jamie Stone gets Scotland. Wera Hobhouse will be speaking on Refugees, Communities and local government.

The team also has a majority of women – 16 out of the 30.

Here is the full list:

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