It’s been another dramatic week in parliament, with the Prime Minister losing a vote on her Brexit deal by a massive 230 votes. The next day, Labour’s vote of no confidence in the government was lost by 19 votes, demonstrating the scale of the power that the DUP have in this hung parliament – if they’d voted the other way, the government would have lost by one vote, and we’d be on our way to a general election.
And that is where we should be headed. No prime minister in history has lost a vote of such significance by such a large margin, and it should now be, and in the past always would have been, a matter of principle for a general election to be called. But the 5-year fixed term parliaments introduced by David Cameron are protecting Mrs May, keeping her in office. It is a disgraceful state of affairs, made worse by her utter intransigence – even though her deal has been roundly defeated, so far she is still refusing to back down on a single element of it.
This creates an impossible situation for the country. With just over 70 days to go, there is no sign the government can get a Brexit deal through parliament. I’m hoping – but not expecting – the Prime Minister will show a bit more flexibility when she makes a statement to the House of Commons next week. At the very least, as Jeremy Corbyn rightly said, for starters she should rule out any prospect of ‘no deal’, and in my view, it’s necessary now that the government extend the Article 50 process to give us more time to sort out this mess. But Theresa May refuses to acknowledge this is now a dangerous crisis – delaying any debate and vote on the government’s Plan B (if it has one) until 29 January. It really is shocking to hold parliament, and the country, to ransom in this way.
On a different subject (not something I have much chance to say these days, as Brexit dominates all business!), the revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework was published by Mayor Andy Burnham at the beginning of January. The big news for us locally was the removal of plans to build on green space in Flixton, a huge result for local campaigners and Cllr Andy Western, the Labour leader of Trafford Council, who were determined to halt the Tories’ original proposals. At the same time, big plans for Carrington, involving thousands of new houses and employment space, got the go-ahead. I welcome the much needed housing for local families, though I recognise concerns exist about the proposed new road route through Carrington Moss. The A6144 through Carrington and Partington is already often very congested, and we desperately need to improve transport links, but the proposed environmental protections need to be very strong too. I’d strongly encourage residents to respond to the preliminary consultation on the strategies – you can do so at www.gmconsult.org. A further consultation on any revisions and detailed plans will take place in a few months’ time.
Finally, can I thank constituents who encouraged me to attend the parliamentary launch of Open Doors UK’s World Watch List of 50 countries around the world in which Christians face persecution for their beliefs. Distressingly, the number of countries where extreme abuse is taking place is rising sharply, and the UK Foreign Office is making a priority of tackling this. I’m very proud to support the excellent work done by Open Doors, and I know this is a cause that has a lot of support among people in Stretford and Urmston. I’ll make sure to continue to post news of any developments in parliament over the coming months.