The dissolution of parliament takes place at just after midnight tonight, and from that moment, there will be no MPs until after the general election on 12 December.
The parliament that is just ending has been exceptionally difficult and unstable. Brexit has squeezed out all other concerns – meaning that our overstretched schools, hospitals and GP practices, our failing rail service, families struggling to make ends meet, and the climate emergency haven’t received the vital attention they needed. At this election, Labour will be proposing bold and creative policies to deal with all these challenges, but Brexit won’t have gone away, and will definitely continue to dominate the new parliament. Whatever the outcome, leaving the EU will require years of negotiation to put new trade, security and health and safety agreements in place, which MPs will need to consider very carefully.
I had been hoping we might have been able to have a public vote before the election took place on whether voters wanted to accept Boris Johnson’s deal or to remain in the EU. But the prime minister pulled his Withdrawal Agreement Bill before it could complete its parliamentary passage. I’m pleased Labour has been clear that, should we form the next government, we will give the final say on Brexit to the people in a confirmatory referendum.
Although much parliamentary time has been given over to Brexit in the past two years, in the last few days of this parliament, I’ve been getting on with more bread and butter issues, asking questions about the collapse of Thomas Cook (which affects my constituents who worked for the company or had holidays booked) and about retail crime and attacks on shopworkers and customers.
And MPs spent yesterday electing a new Speaker for the House of Commons, following John Bercow’s resignation after ten years in the chair. It’s the first time I’ve participated in an election for speaker, and it turned out to be a cumbersome process, with round after round of voting to knock out the lowest-scoring candidates, and long waits between rounds while new ballot papers were printed. Congratulations to my colleague and fellow north west MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who led in each round and emerged the eventual winner. Lindsay took his seat in the chair today, and already we noticed one change from John – he finished Foreign Office questions almost bang on time after an hour (we’d got used to overruns of five or ten minutes, or even longer – and as for Prime Minister’s questions, sometimes they’d stretch on for the best part of an hour)!
With a number of other colleagues also standing down, the next parliament will feel different, even if we’re still dealing with some of the same issues. And it really does need to be different if we’re to rebuild Britain and secure a brighter future for our country. Over the next few weeks, I hope to meet as many of you as possible while I’m out on the campaign trail to hear your views on what you want to change, and your priorities for the next parliament. In the meantime, thank you for your support and encouragement – it’s an honour to represent people in Stretford and Urmston, and I couldn’t be prouder to serve you.