I’ve witnessed some exceptional moments in my time in parliament. Theresa May’s statement to MPs in 2016 reporting on the devastating findings of the jury in the Hillsborough inquest. David Cameron losing the vote on UK military intervention in Syria. Numerous knife edge Brexit votes, including one where the vote was actually tied – something that almost never happens in parliament. And, as I reported in my blog last week, the astonishing contempt for Boris Johnson, including from his own MPs, as a result of the partygate scandal.
But this week my breath was taken away all over again in prime minister’s questions. First, as PMQs was due to start, former Conservative MP Christian Wakeford crossed the floor to join the Labour benches. And just as we were recovering from that surprise, veteran Conservative MP David Davis stood up to tell the prime minister ‘In the name of God, go’.
He was quoting Oliver Cromwell, who was in turn quoted by Leo Amery addressing Neville Chamberlain. Obviously, I don’t remember either of those events. But I do remember Geoffrey Howe’s attack on Margaret Thatcher, that served to end her premiership. That was the first thing I thought of listening to Davis.
And yet, despite the rumours, the anger, and the widespread disbelief at his excuses, Boris Johnson continues to hang onto power. Next week, we expect the report into partygate from civil servant Sue Gray. Will that finally finish this desperate and dreadful prime minister? I’m standing by for another dramatic week in parliament.
Meanwhile, MPs get on with the day job. Conservative ministers have been wheeling out announcements to distract attention from Johnson’s problems. But the statement from Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, freezing the BBC’s funding for two years and planning to scrap the licence fee altogether by the end of the decade, didn’t seem to go as she hoped. Numerous Conservative MPs stood up to disagree with her proposals, while Labour MPs expressed deep concern about the future of local news programmes, the World Service, educational programmes, and (in my case) the BBC’s amazing orchestras.
I know a number of my constituents work at the BBC, and its presence in Salford is so important for our region, both economically and culturally. I’m very grateful to constituents who’ve written to thank me for saying so in the chamber. It seems the government is now trying to backtrack, but we know many Conservatives harbour a deep hostility to the BBC, so we will be keeping an eagle eye on developments.
I was also in the chamber for the debate on the Building Safety Bill, which seeks to provide some protections for leaseholders in high rise buildings. The bill is a start, but once again, both Labour and Conservative MPs stood up to raise concerns that it simply doesn’t go far enough. It’s so disappointing to miss the chance to deliver proper protection for homebuyers. I’ll continue to press the government for action against unscrupulous developers.
Much more cheerfully, it was an absolute pleasure to attend Manchester Metropolitan University’s graduation ceremony for new graduating teachers on Thursday. These ceremonies have been on hold since 2020 thanks to covid, and it was such a joy to see them finally happening. Thanks so much for inviting me.
And finally on covid, the government has now announced relaxation of many of the restrictions that came in as the Omicron variant took hold in December. Work from home guidance has been scrapped, masks and compulsory covid passes are going, and the isolation period has reduced from 7 to 5 days. We will all be delighted to live more normally, but covid hasn’t gone away. Even if it isn’t compulsory, I’ll still be wearing a mask on public transport and in shops, and I’m very glad to have had my vaccinations. Please make sure you do too!