I take some inspiration from the Speaker of the House when I say, what a week!
Once again we saw the entire government apparatus being used to defend the PM from the happenings at No. 10 last year. The Prime Minister not knowing what his own rules were, or what a party is, (depending on his latest excuse) is a matter of serious concern, and we will come to it later. But the week also saw important legislation being discussed in Parliament.
Three critical Bills were debated this week. First of all, the Elections Bill is a blatant attempt by the Conservatives to control voting rights and reverse decades of democratic progress in the UK. In doing so they are unabashedly following the playbook of Donald Trump and the US Republican Party.
This legislation will require voters to provide photo ID when they vote, something which would disproportionately exclude Labour voters. Voting is remarkably safe and secure in Britain, with cases of voter fraud almost negligible. According to the Electoral Commission, there were only 4 cases of electoral fraud that led to convictions in the 2019 General Election.
You can read more about my views on the troubling aspects of this Bill on my website.
On Monday, I supported the Samaritans campaign ‘Brew Monday’, which aims to dispel the myth of Blue Monday and awareness of the importance of meeting up with others for a cup of tea and a chat. I joined Liz Twist (MP for Blaydon) and many other colleagues for a virtual meet-up. We’ve all had a very difficult couple of years isolated from friends and family. If you feel lonely, depressed or just need to speak to someone, there are some useful contact details I have shared recently.
The second important Bill under debate in the House of Lords was the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Labour had voted against this legislation in the Commons because it would criminalise protest while failing to address the very real problems in our justice system. I’ve written more about this here. It then went on to the House of Lords where Labour peers won 14 votes, improving aspects of the legislation.
This was a historic achievement. The government has not been beaten in 14 votes in the Lords since this chamber was reformed in 1999. It was also historic for another reason. The government had tried to add large parts to the Bill in the Lords stage. By doing this the government was denying MPs, the elected representatives, from scrutinising these massive changes, clearly another attempt to undermine our democracy. You can read more about my views on the Bill here.
On Tuesday, I was also in the Chamber for the Adjournment Debate on the recognition of Somaliland, something very important to many of my constituents. My fellow Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy spoke during the debate. She said, “The message that the UK will recognise Somaliland, but we want to be the second to do so is frustrating”. You can read the complete debate that took place here.
Wednesday brought the spectacle of the Prime Minister once again attempting to defend himself from the culture of rule-breaking and partying at No. 10 Downing Street. I felt Keir Starmer did a standout job in articulating the public mood by condemning the PM for his “absurd” and “frankly unbelievable excuses”.
He mocked the government at their attempts to boo his speech by asking if the “the chief whip told them to bring their own boos”. The PM then faced pressure from his own party during PMQs with one of his MPs telling him “in the name of God, go”. while another, chose to do the going himself, and joined the Labour party.
On Thursday, MPs voted on the Building Safety Bill. The Bill was supposed to resolve fire safety problems that have caused years of misery, high costs and uncertainty for thousands living in flats. Sadly, this law once again falls short.
Ministers have repeatedly promised to protect people from the costs of building safety defects that they did not cause. Labour has long campaigned for the government to uphold this commitment, including when I was Shadow Housing Secretary.
On Wednesday we put forward amendments to the Building Safety Bill that would have fixed some of the gaping holes in this legislation. Once again, these plans were voted out by the Tories. The legislation will now go to the House of Lords. You can read more about the Bill on my website here.
On Thursday I led for the Opposition in Business Questions. In my speech I welcomed the Member for Bury South Christian Wakeford into the Labour Party. I believe we should be welcoming anyone realising the error in their ways and wanting to make a change for the better.
I also used my time during Business Questions to remind the government of Labour’s victories on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which included defending the right to peaceful protest and stronger action against dangerous protest which put lives at risk. We also called for more powers for councils to prevent anti-vax intimidation outside schools, a review into the prevalence of drink-spiking, and making misogyny a hate crime.
To see clips from speech and questions posed by my Labour colleagues, you can check out this Twitter thread.
This week has once again shown that the Tories are desperately trying to cling onto power by lying in Parliament, silencing dissent and restricting participation.
I will always fight against these efforts.