Tag Archives: Parliament

A rare bright spot in the Brexit nightmare

There have been precious few bright moments since the Brexit nightmare started. In fact, I can’t really remember any that didn’t involve being at an anti Brexit protest with other pro-Europeans.

I seriously didn’t expect the Government to lose tonight.  I thought that Tory rebels would express concern but ultimately line up behind Theresa May and David Davis. I felt it was more likely given that May is on the up at the moment. Maybe I was wrong, though. It’s probably easier to rebel on a good day than inflict what may be a fatal act on a government that you support.

I’d got in from work just as the vote was being called and the commentary was all about people thought to be certain Tory rebels now abstaining. My heart sank. But then when the tellers lined up, the opposition side started cheering. A tight vote had gone the right way.

The Government lost by 4 votes. 309 people backed Dominic Grieve’s amendment, 305, including Labour MPs like Kate Hoey and Frank Field, voted with the Government.

My reservation is that there is very little point in Parliament having a meaningful vote if Jeremy Corbyn simply lines up his people to support the Tories in implementing a really unpleasant and painful brexit. Labour did what it was supposed to do tonight, but every time it’s had the chance to do something it says it believes in, like back the single market,  its MPs sit on their hands.

Will they do the right thing as the issues kicked so deftly into the long grass have to be confronted and resolved? Who knows? At least they have the chance, I suppose.

And what of the Lib Dem reaction to the Government defeat? Tom Brake used some novel phrase we’ve never heard before about taking back control:

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Sanctuary in Parliament

iving a voice to those with no voice that anyone in a position of power will listen to, is surely one of the key things we believe in as Liberal Democrats.

There was the opportunity for just this at Sanctuary in Parliament last week.

Asylum seekers and refugees from throughout the country were able to go to Parliament to meet with their MPs, and tell them of the impact on their lives of living in poverty, or being destitute, and not having the right to work.

I had gone, with a non-political hat, with a team from Tees Valley, including 2 people seeking asylum who are awaiting decisions, one asylum seeker who is destitute, 2 refugees.

The MPs had been invited to attend beforehand, and with a fair bit of chasing up nearly all of those from Tees Valley did.

Also four Lib Dem Peers, Brian Paddick, Roger Roberts (and his researcher Helen Byrne), Sally Hamwee and Shas Sheehan came along, and we met Sal Brinton there too.  Ed Davey sent his caseworker as he was unable to attend himself, and Layla Moran’s researcher came as she was unwell.

One of our delegates spoke from the platform with a very moving and beautifully delivered speech.  All met with the parliamentarians, and told their stories, specifically relating to the theme, and generally got involved.

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Cut the Electoral Corruption!

“Follow the money” has always been a good tip for an investigative journalist or politician.

 In recent weeks and months there have been plenty such trails to follow.  In reverse order:

  • “Arron Banks faces EU referendum finance investigation” (BBC 1/11/2017);
  • “Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage … bound together in an unholy alliance” (Observer 30/10/2017);
  • “Who paid for the leave vote?” (Guardian 28/6/2017);
  • “Labour MP calls for probe into Tory use of voter data” (Guardian 27/5/2017);
  • “Watchdog can’t stop foreign interference in election” (BBC 17/5/2017);
  • “No Conservative election charges from 14 police force inquiries” (Guardian 10/5/2017);
  • “The

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Christine Jardine MP writes…We are simply the temporary guardians of their future

‘No taxation without representation’ was the call to arms which shook Westminster to its very core, and drove the American Revolution.

And yet nearly 250 years later here we are again. In this country today 16 and 17 year olds can pay tax and national insurance, and yet they have no say, no representation in how that money they contribute to the public purse is spent.

They can also get married and join the armed forces, but they cannot vote and have no say in our society’s decisions on their future. Yet, nobody has provided a reasonable explanation as to why. There have been plenty of excuses but no explanations.

It frustrates me because I have witnessed first-hand what a difference it makes to our politics, and what a contrast there is when sixteen and seventeen year olds join the debate.

On the eve of the European elections in May 2014, I spent the evening with a group of my daughter’s friends.

It was her 16th birthday. They knew I was involved in both the European elections and the forthcoming Scottish Independence Referendum campaign and wanted to chat.

The conversations I had that night were some of the most enlightened, challenging and informed of the entire European or Independence referendum campaigns.

At one point, I noticed that even though there was a constant stream of questions a few of the people were also all on their phones.

I was on the brink of being disappointed, when I discovered that they were actually texting other friends who were sending back their own questions to ask.

Imagine that? Young people so desperately keen to understand and be involved in the democratic process.

All of them engaged, all of them informed, all of them keen to make a positive difference and yet none of them entitled to vote the next day.

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Brexit, due process and the role of Parliament

Liberal Democrats should be leading the fight in both Houses of Parliament by demanding that a proper legislative process is followed which assesses the benefits, costs and risks of Brexit but also ensures that Brexit, if there has to be one, can only occur if, concurrently, the pitfalls in the constitutional framework exposed during the last 18 months are satisfactorily addressed.

A specific set of overarching rules would need to be put in place ideally before any Brexit can reasonably be implemented.

We should explain to the general public that Brexit is not only bad for the economy, our jobs and our rights but that it would be inappropriate to impose Brexit unless it is done alongside constitutional reform.

We are confident that voters will understand and support us if we tell them that our mission is to oppose Brexit and to ensure that Brexit, if there has to be one, is dependent upon due process and on a new constitutional framework.

The lesson learnt from Brexit: which constitutional reform

The Brexit process has exposed the pitfalls and deficiencies in the role of Parliament and the current constitutional framework.

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What’s going on in our Parliaments this week?

So MSPs and MPs head back to Holyrood and Westminster this week. For MPs, it’ll be a short-lived two week session before another three week break for Conference recess. AMs in Cardiff have another two weeks off. MEPs have their plenary session in Strasbourg next week.

To say that the agenda was light for this week would be to over-estimate things.

On Tuesday, we have all the remaining stages of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from non domestic rates) Bill. I might be wrong but I can’t see this being too hotly controversial.

Wednesday has questions, including PMQs and an adjournment debate on knife crime. Thursday gets a bit more contentious when we come to the Repeal Bill which has the first day of its second reading.

There are some interesting Westminster Hall debates including one on banning letting agency fees to tenants – a long-standing Lib Dem policy pushed for by, among others, Lib Dem peer Olly Grender.

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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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