Sometimes parliament can be the scene of high drama – you get the same sense of tension and excitement as you do when you’re in the audience for a gripping evening at the theatre. And Monday was one of those days, as Labour MPs eyed the spectacle of Conservative MPs voting on whether they had confidence in Boris Johnson.
All day, huddles of Conservative MPs could be observed whispering to one another in corridors and corners. The vote itself took place on Monday evening, requiring them to queue up outside one of the committee rooms to cast their vote in person. I was participating in a committee discussing the imposition of further sanctions to freeze Russian assets just along the corridor, and had to walk past the (extremely long) queue to get there. The atmosphere reminded me of students waiting for their exam results to be published – a pretence of normal chatting, against a backdrop of slight hysteria and loads of speculation.
The result when it came may have been a numerical victory for Boris Johnson, but everyone knew it actually dealt a devastating blow to the prime minister’s authority. 40% of his own MPs voted against him, a worse result than Theresa May secured in her confidence vote. And she had to resign only months later.
But this prime minister knows no shame. Not content with tearing up the ministerial code of conduct last week, he sank to new lows this week when, speaking about the Sue Gray report into the Downing Street parties, he apparently proclaimed he’d do the same again. I found that utterly sickening.
The prime minister’s dishonourable and self serving behaviour stands in absolute contrast to the unpaid carers who came to parliament to mark Carers’ Week this week, and to brief MPs on the pressures they experience while caring for a loved one. Financial pressures. Lack of respite provision. Lack of information about what support they should get. Feelings of guilt and exhaustion.
Most of us will receive or give care at some point in our lives, and I meet many constituents who are already doing so. I know the amazing efforts carers make, and I’ll do all I can to ensure what you do and the support you deserve are recognised.
On Thursday, I was part of a group of MPs and members of the House of Lords visiting Calais to meet charities and the local MP to discuss the situation of asylum seekers seeking to cross the channel to England. We all know of the terrifying journeys they attempt, in small boats or hidden in lorries, and the terrible risk that presents to the lives of very desperate people. We were able to meet some of the (almost entirely) young men who are living rough around Calais waiting in hope of the chance to cross, without the money to pay the bribes that people smugglers demand, moved on constantly by the French police, and now threatened with being sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed if they do make it to England. Neither the French nor the UK government seems willing to address this appalling and inhumane situation, yet our group’s discussions on Thursday with the charities and Calais MP made clear there are practical solutions that could be adopted. The group was made up of members of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties, and we hope that by taking a cross-party approach, we may be able to encourage the government to listen to some of the suggestions made to us. Meanwhile, the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda has now been challenged in court. Many of my constituents have been in touch to express your horror at this disgusting policy, and I know that, like me, you will be watching the outcome of the court case carefully.