My usual time for writing my blog is on a Thursday evening on the train home from London, so we can send it out to you on Friday morning. Fridays in parliament are generally reserved for private members bills – new legislation that is proposed by backbench MPs, not by the government. Most of these bills either have no chance of becoming law, or if they do, it’s because they’re uncontentious. Either way, the whips don’t normally require us to stay in Westminster on a Friday, and I can get back to the constituency for meetings and surgeries here.
But last Friday was different. Labour MP Barry Gardiner was introducing his Fire and Rehire bill, and all Labour MPs stayed behind to vote for it. We have seen too many examples of this appalling practice in recent years, employers sacking staff, then reengaging them on less favourable contracts, and Boris Johnson himself had said this was unacceptable. So we had hoped that Conservative MPs would support us to get this bill through.
But they didn’t. For all the Prime Minister’s warm words, when the vote came, the Conservatives voted against it. Their promises to working people turned out to be completely hollow. I am bitterly disappointed at this betrayal.
The vote came at the end of a very emotional week in parliament, following the terrible news of the murder of David Amess MP. David was a kind and lovely man, and on Monday we heard some beautiful tributes to him in parliament, before heading to St Margaret’s church in Westminster Abbey for a memorial service. I am very grateful to constituents who have been in touch to send good wishes to me and my staff following David’s death. I can’t find the words to express the anger and trauma we all feel now, having seen the violent death of two MPs in the past few years. My thoughts are with David’s family; I simply cannot imagine the pain they will be going through.
Much more happily, last week was Colleges Week, and I have been very lucky to visit some fabulous colleges to hear about their work. During the parliamentary recess, I was delighted to attend Trafford College’s Brilliant Breakfast for their women students, and on visits last week to colleges in London, I met students studying everything from graphic design to plumbing, and was very impressed with their hard work and skills. But the high point was definitely my visit to Westminster Kingsway College to meet catering students – and enjoy a 6 course gourmet lunch! Enormous thanks to the students for your hospitality, and amazing cooking!
And in a varied week last week, I also marked National Lorry Week, when I heard firsthand about the pressures that face HGV drivers and the need to improve pay and conditions to address the shortage of drivers that we face; popped in to meet Long Live the Local campaigners, calling for support for pubs; and waved off campaigners calling for more support for nursery schools as they set off to present a petition to 10 Downing Street. In some ways, parliament is back to the way it was before the pandemic – but with rates still high, especially in Trafford, and the risk of more restrictions to halt the spread of infection, please can I urge everyone to continue to take precautions and to go for your first, second and third jab when invited to do so.