Thank you to all those who voted Labour in the European parliamentary election last week. You can view the Trafford result here.
I’m disappointed to see Labour only in third place in Trafford, but glad that we and the other pro-EU parties took nearly two thirds of the vote here. It’s also notable that the parties who were unambiguously in favour of a confirmatory vote on the Brexit deal scored 40.3% of the national vote, compared to 34.9% for the ‘hard’ Brexit parties. I’m pleased that senior members of Labour’s shadow cabinet, including John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry, are saying so clearly that Labour must back a public vote, especially as the Tory party embarks on a leadership election which could lead to a prime minister in Downing Street who would be quite happy to see us leave the EU with no deal at all, ignoring the damage that would do.
As well as watching what happened in Trafford, and across the country, I had the opportunity also to observe Malta voting in the EU elections last week. Unlike the UK, which voted last Thursday, Malta voted on Saturday (and some countries did not vote till Sunday), and as I was making a visit to the Maltese parliament at the end of last week, I had an insight into how Malta feels about the EU and Brexit too. I also had the opportunity to visit the fabulous new Maltese parliament, completed in 2015. Just last week, the UK parliament voted through the first stage of the legislation we need to embark on the restoration and renewal of our Houses of Parliament, and so I was fascinated to visit a beautiful and modern parliament building – it gave me lots of ideas for what I’d like to see in Westminster, though I fear many of my colleagues are simply looking to replicate our traditional parliament, which would be a sadly lost opportunity, in my view.
My visit to Malta also covered very interesting discussions on money-laundering, how we’ll share data on security and serious and organised international crime post-Brexit, and how each of our parliaments regulates the conduct of MPs. I had been invited to make the visit in my capacity as chair of the UK parliament’s committee on standards, and it was very interesting to meet my counterparts in the Maltese parliament to discuss areas of shared interest – as it was to meet a delegation of Kenyan parliamentarians in Westminster last week. The Kenyan MPs asked me lots of questions about gender balance in the UK parliament. As they pointed out, other countries around the world have a far higher proportion of women MPs than we do, and we discussed why it’s important to have parliaments that reflect the demographic makeup of our countries, and what we can do to attract more women to stand for parliament, both here in the UK, and around the world. I always learn loads from these international visits and exchanges, not just from the similarities between us, but from the different ways we do things too.
This week is half term, and I have enjoyed the chance to spend more time in the constituency, and especially to attend the celebrations to mark the opening of Samir’s fabulous restaurant in Stretford. Many of you will know this story: Samir and his family arrived in Flixton in 2016 as refugees from the appalling conflict in Syria. They were welcomed by parishioners of St Monica’s church, and were the very first Syrian refugee family to come to the UK under the government’s community sponsorship scheme. Two years on, the family are close friends and neighbours to local people, the children are settled into school, and Samir has opened his wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant on Chester Road. It’s a story that warms the heart. Now, two more Syrian refugee families are being welcomed by members of St Ann’s church in Stretford and Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Davyhulme – my constituents are proud and delighted to say that refugees are welcome here.