One of the numerous funerals that has taken place recently was the highest profile event for some time. Yet despite its profile, it was very modest compared to what we might have experienced 18 months ago. Although we had not anticipated hearing from our MPs or indeed other politicians last Monday from within Parliament, 140 of them turned up a day earlier than planned to respond to the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. The fact that nearly five times as many MPs were involved in that debate than the number of people who could take part in any of the local or even an International funeral demonstrates some of the challenges that we are currently facing. Many people have expressed frustration about the extent to which Prince Philip’s death has been discussed and communicated through our media, the involvement of Parliament may have also been frustrating for some people. However, there are clearly a lot of people who were very appreciative to receive the news of his death and his lifetime history that was publicised over the last ten days including by some of our MPs.
As it happens last week in the House of Commons there were other very important and high-profile themes that emerged which were equally unexpected. Sadly, some of these were treated much less well by a number of MPs and Ministers than they did in their respect for the death of Prince Philip. No doubt some people who are not concerned about his death, equally have very little respect for their MPs and for the Parliament. However there certainly are many other people who are very angry about the issues that lay behind the debate and vote that took place on Wednesday afternoon. Let us hope that some of our MPs will seriously reconsider resolving the damage that has taken place in their sector over the last few years and set out to find a way of putting things right, despite how they voted. The vote on Wednesday afternoon sadly did not achieve a united response. It was very clearly party political which is not very helpful given some of the recent comments from people across all of the party’s. Arguably the most significant so far has come from Eric Pickles to demonstrate that his party is acting very badly. Let us hope that in due course all of the party’s including the Conservatives will seek to resolve the problems they have helped to create.
There were a number of Sussex MPs who took part in the discussion on Monday, who included Peter Kyle and Caroline Lucas from Brighton and Hove. There were two MPs from West Sussex who are Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton who represent the Worthing area. The MPs from East Sussex covered a much wider area, they were Nusrat Ghani from Wealden, Sally-Ann Hart from Hastings and Rye and Huw Merriman from Bexhill and Battle. Along with their many words on Monday the only Sussex MP who spoke during the debate on Wednesday was Huw Merriman. The debate was formed by Rachel Reeves who is a senior Labour MP and the title was “Lobbying of Government Committee” which called for a new committee to address lobbying. Huw’s comment included the following words.
With the local elections coming up in May, I am concerned that we are in danger of playing party politics in this Chamber … At the start of this week, this Chamber was at its very best, and, of course, that is why I am dressed as I am. We referenced the Duke of Edinburgh and warmly referenced how popular he was because he was direct, loyal and non-partisan, and here we are today talking about election leaflets and playing party politics.
These words were rather distracting and it is useful to recall how the coalition Government that was elected in 2010 set out a Bill on the theme of lobbying. That Bill included some very concerning elements in attempting to prevent agencies such as Charities from raising their views in the year before an election. Yet the man who set that Bill out has now virtually admitted how he was lobbying to his colleagues. Another person who spoke on Wednesday was Brendan O’Hara who is an SNP MP and he referred to Professor Liz David-Barrett of the University of Sussex and her words
Those who can be described as being linked to politically exposed persons are usually treated as being higher risk and therefore deserving of more scrutiny rather than less.
Sadly all of the Sussex MPs voted following their party lines and the call for the committee was blocked. Perhaps we could now try to persuade each of our MPs to meet with the Sussex Professor and to learn from her how to block political lobbying.