It’s been some time since I’ve had the chance to write a blog. Events have been so dramatic, unpredictable and fast-moving in recent weeks. I have been posting updates on what’s been going on in Westminster on my facebook page as much as I can. But from day to day, we’re rarely clear what is about to happen next.
Parliament was prorogued (suspended) for a 5-week period on 9 September. But a landmark supreme court ruling this week found the prime minister had acted unlawfully in seeking such a long period of prorogation from the Queen. The judgement amounts to a devastating indictment of a prime minister who thought he was above the law. Just over two weeks later, the court found the prorogation null and void, and MPs returned to parliament.
It was absolutely right that we should do so. With only a month to go until we are due to leave the European Union, MPs need to be in parliament to do our job of scrutinising the government and asking questions of ministers. So I headed back from the Labour party conference in Brighton and got stuck in straightaway in the chamber.
What we saw over the next two days was shocking and deeply disturbing. The atmosphere in Westminster has been toxic. The prime minister threatened, insulted and blustered his way through a statement to MPs, making clear that whatever the supreme court said, he would take his own view on the law of the land and how he’d choose to obey it
The ugly tone in parliament has spilled out into the country. I want to thank everyone who has sent me messages of support and encouragement. But when some MPs’ children are writing on twitter that they are scared at how they see their mum being treated, something is going very wrong. We desperately need to re-civIlise our politics, and that starts from the top, with the example set by the prime minister.
It has been a tiring and stressful time to be in parliament, as nobody knows from day to day what to expect will happen next. My apologies to anyone I’ve been due to meet or visit if I’ve had to rearrange or cancel. It was however really great to fit in some local events earlier in the month. Doing normal things, with friendly, polite people, has given me a terrific boost, and it’s a great contrast to the poisonous atmosphere in Westminster.
So a big thank you to the BBC Philharmonic for inviting me to a brilliant concert at Media City, under the baton of new chief conductor Omer Meir Wellber. It’s been great to visit the pupils at St Matthew’s primary school on St Matthew’s Day, to join young people on the Youth Climate Strike in central Manchester, and to celebrate the official opening of UA92 with the very first students who will study there.
And I’ve also been proud to stand with union colleagues from GMB at ASDA, and CWU at Royal Mail, as they stand up for the rights of their members. Both unions are fighting proposals which would seriously worsen workers’ pay and conditions, even after years of loyal service. And back in Westminster, I’ve been asking questions about the collapse of Thomas Cook, and the impact on holidaymakers and employees. I’m angry to see bosses still claiming their big bonuses, while staff and customers lose out. I’m very glad that at our conference this week, Labour promised to improve protections and end this scandal.