At the end of two unbelievably chaotic weeks in parliament, Theresa May has survived an attempt by her own MPs to force her out, but her Brexit deal is stalled. The situation is becoming deeply worrying, with only around 100 days left until we are due to leave the EU, with or without an agreement. But leaving with no deal would be catastrophic for the country, leaving us stranded with no trade arrangements, no way to share security information, and no certainty about the future.
The Prime Minister is desperately rushing round European capitals, seeking concessions that she hopes will enable her to get her deal through parliament. But time is running out, and there is little sign she can. This is such a dangerous situation for our country, we’re told nothing will happen now until after Christmas, but things are becoming really urgent. We need to force this government out of office now, or if parliament has reached an impasse, return to the country and hold a public vote on the withdrawal deal. Either way, I am strongly of the view that the so-called Article 50 withdrawal process will have to be extended beyond March.
I’ve been in and out of the chamber a lot, asking questions about Brexit, but have also been spending time working on a debate I’d called for Thursday afternoon on protecting buyers of new-build homes. I’ve been working on this subject for some months, following the appalling experiences of constituents who’d bought new Persimmon homes in Woodsend. They found a host of defects when they moved in, but months went by while the company did nothing to put things right (though it did manage to find the time to pay its chief executive a £75 million bonus).
Researching the subject, I discovered a similar situation affecting thousands of buyers and different housebuilders up and down the country. So I was very pleased to have the chance to introduce this debate (you can read the debate, in full here). The minister promised the government would be taking action, and MPs will be holding her to that.
It’s also been good to spend time with students at Wellacre, who are campaigning to ensure that every school in the world is safe – not all are, for example if they’re in war zones, affected by natural disasters, or if there’s a culture of bullying and violence. The students invited me to their assembly to hear more about their concerns, and presented some posters they’d designed to highlight the subject. I’ll be writing to the government minister on their behalf to ask that the UK signs up to the Safe Schools Declaration.
And it was also great to welcome 55 students from Flixton Girls sixth form to parliament on Wednesday. They asked some very searching questions in the course of what was a fascinating discussion, cut short only because I had to go to vote!
There have been some other lovely visits and events I’ve been along to in the constituency: promoting Small Business Saturday at Reel Around the Fountain records in Stretford Mall; attending the tree-planting at Turn Moss of two saplings donated by the Woodland Trust as part of the Queen’s Canopy project; the Stretford and Partington Christmas lights switch-on ceremonies; and the Victoria Park Christmas fair, where Bernice and I staffed the mulled wine stall – apologies that we sold out part way through the afternoon! Most special of all was presenting Amber, a student at Barton Clough, and winner of my annual Christmas card design competition, with her prize. A big thanks to everyone who entered the competition this year, and especially to Carrington developer Himor for generously sponsoring it, and congratulations to Amber.
I’m in parliament again on Monday for the final few days before the Christmas break, then back in Stretford next Friday morning (21st December) to host my Christmas coffee morning, at which all constituents are very welcome. Admission’s free, but please bring an item to donate to the Stretford foodbank if you can. My office will then be closed until the new year, while my staff and I take a break. My best wishes to everyone who is celebrating this Christmas, and a very happy new year!