Tuesday, 19 February 2008
A few days before the balloon went up I kept running across him first at an informal sandwich lunch in a tiny room in the Commons where we in the parliamentary Life Group briefed him on the Embryology Bill and later in the huge grand Anglican Cathedral at the Liverpool Capital of Culture lecture.
He's a very pleasant, gentle man and he looks wise, sounds wise ( with elegant ways of phrasing his points) ...but the jury is out on whether he actually is wise. Certainly not 'worldy wise' or media savvy though he actually has a very intelligent press officer. Listening to his lecture on culture in the Anglican Cathedral I had the feeling that lofty sentiments were being expressed but the core of his message remained a little elusive.
That's OK if you're talking about culture but if you are going to talk about such an emotive.press sensitive topic as Sharia Law best make your thoughts crystal clear...and he clearly didn't or perhaps his thoughts weren't actually totally clear in the first place.
Currently with the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government we are doing an enquiry into the delicate matter of Community cohesion and went to Peterborough an area where migrant population figures run into five figures. We met the migrant workers who told us what an excellent job the council was doing in integrating them and residents who told us what a rotten job the council was doing. The most vocal resident complaining about the newcomers was incidentally a second generation immigrant.
In my picture you can see us talking to selected migrants (from right to left) a Roma Czech policeman, a Lithuanian girl, a man from Somaliland, a lady from Portugal and a Kurdish refugee from Iraq.
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
This week promises to be a bad week for M.P.s as the media pore over the details of the new pay deal and expense arrangements for M.Ps. to be voted on on Thursday.
For me its very simple I made the decision when I first got elected to a public office never to vote on my own terms and conditions and so far have never knowingly done so and actually resent being put in the position of being able to do. I’ve just signed a Commons motion on that very point. It doesn’t stop people telling you that you have just voted for your own huge, pay rise etc or the brickbats being thrown.
There are two extreme schools of thought found amongst elected politicians on this sensitive subject- one is the hair shirt school arguing that elected representatives are in such low repute that heroic acts of self denial are the only path to atonement and the other is the ‘vote and be damned school’ who argue that since the public don’t give you much credit whatever you vote for so you might as well vote as you see fit. Most politicians fall somewhere between these extremes- and dream of the day when politicians terms and conditions are tied to some agreed national scale and taken out of politics!
I think one of the suggestions up before the house endeavours to do that.
Anyway looking at the recommendations we will see some changes. My staff salaries will hopefully be no longer classified as ‘my expenses’ and receipts will be necessary for all expense claims over £50 (not £250 as at present) – though personally because I never knew any different- I have sent receipts in for every paper-clip since I was elected.
Expenses of course cover your travel back and forth to London every week which is thought of as less than an indulgence. I asked last week Brian Iddon the genial and principled Labour M.P. for Bolton who is retiring next election what was the thing he would miss least.
“The travel” he said.
If like me you have sat around eleven o clock at night on the sluggish Northern Line to Southport on Thursday nights in Winter week after week after the long haul from London and just wanted to get home and have a bath and go to sleep you will know what I mean. Or worse still got to the