Observing Politicians in the Houses of Parliament is something I find fascinating although most of the time, what gets said is much closer to conflict than collaboration. However occasionally a few words emerge that are based on collaboration that goes beyond a single political party. Last Wednesday Andrea Leadsom made a personal statement and amongst many things I personally disagree with, in one part of her speech a bright element emerged. “As many in this House know, better support for the early years is essential to levelling up, to solving health inequalities and to promoting lifelong emotional well- being. In 2011, I launched the “1,001 critical days” campaign with support from every party in the House, many Members of the other place and almost every early year’s stakeholder. Frank Field, the late Dame Tessa Jowell and the hon. Members for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) always worked on a cross-party basis, and I am grateful to them.” It is always good when our area gets a mention and when a subject that is high on most of our list is featured and for Caroline to be one of the names mentioned is very encouraging. The one aspect in that section that Andrea ignored is the huge numbers of collaborative groups of people and many individuals who campaign very hard for the protection of children during their first two years and 9 months and actually years after that. It is vital that we persuade Caroline and indeed her neighbouring Sussex MPs to stand up and agree to work together on protecting children in their career as Politicians.
Another theme that emerged which also involved Caroline was a question from her on the same day directed at Boris Johnson. It related to the cancellation of the extension of Heathrow Airport and it was a challenge for Johnson and his Government to look at other matters that “broke the law by ignoring the Paris climate agreement and by breaching their own sustainable development duty to future generations” Whereas Andrea Leadsom was more willing to speak, albeit briefly about collaboration, Johnson was less inclined to do so. His response was “we will ensure that we abide by the judgment and take account of the Paris convention on climate change, but I do not believe for one second that that will be an impediment to our delivery of an infrastructure revolution across this country.” One wonders how many people who are concerned about matters such as HS2 and ideas such as building a bridge between Ireland and Scotland or setting up a new Airport on an Island near London should respond to Mr Johnson as he is not as credible as his words would suggest. Indeed as our nation prepares for the visit to Glasgow by leaders from nearly 200 nations later this year, it would seem worthwhile for some form of internal process to be established which Caroline called for “how many of the Government’s other national policy statements have been assessed against the Paris climate agreement, and will he commit, right now, to reviewing and, if necessary, revising all those that have not?” which was the part of the question that he seemed to ignore. It is hard to know which of our local MPs apart from Caroline are the most passionate about resolving such issues, perhaps they could put their hands up and then seek to work with her in dealing with these issues as well as the protection of young children.
Another area of conflict from last week came in responses from Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester who was recently appointed as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education. Given that her neighbouring MP, Nick Gibb is also an Education Minister one would hope that the two of them could begin to deal with education issues in a credible and coherent manner. Sadly based on last week’s responses that does not seem about to happen. Several Conservative MPs asked Gillian a question about funding for the education of 16-19 year olds and Gillian responded. As a new Minister, she is facing historic chaos, but one question pointed out that this funding has been frozen since 2013 at £4,000 per year. Despite this in her response to another question, Gillian stated “We will increase the base rate of funding by 4.7%, from £4,000 to £4,188, for the academic year 2020/21. This is the biggest injection of new money into 16 to 19 education in a single year since 2010” It is clearly encouraging that any increase has taken place Gillian, but given that there has been no increase since 2013, this increase is the equivalent of an annual growth of 0.57% which is much less than you are claiming!