It is fascinating to occasionally observe activities by local MPs taking part in campaigns or events that sadly many others seem to totally ignore. It would be fantastic if more of our MPs would be willing to respond to the same themes, perhaps we could find ways of persuading them to do so? Of course, many of the actions that appear inside Parliament are strongly party political but thankfully there are others that take place inside and outside of Parliament that have a much more open approach. It is always very inspiring when they stand up some distance from the Government in a way that enables them to call for change in our nation. Sadly, at present there are far too many situations which this Government is able to set out due to its size, but each time that our representatives are willing to challenge them, is worth promoting. Last week there were several votes that took part in Parliament which were unable to change the plans for the Government and indeed which are not going to improve matters for our Nation. However, it is encouraging when small elements emerge.
On Tuesday a debate took place under the headline of “Tackling Short-term and Long-term Cost of Living Increases” which was an amendment set out by the Labour ex leader Ed Miliband who began by stating “regret that the Gracious Speech fails to announce a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas producers, in order to provide much-needed relief from energy price increases for households.” Now clearly this is a theme that many of us would like to have seen accepted by the Government. A few minutes after Ed started his speech, there was a comment from a Conservative MP and then the next person to speak was Caroline Lucas from Brighton Pavilion who pointed out that “the Government have underspent their net zero budget by a staggering quarter of a billion pounds, at exactly the same time as our constituents are struggling to keep their homes warm and deal with accelerating fuel poverty.” Later in the debate Caroline spoke again but there were no contributions from any other Sussex MPs and yet when it came to the votes Caroline along with her neighbourhood Labour MPs all voted in favour of it but sadly most of the Conservatives along with their government rejected this very strongly. However, there was one local exception from Henry Smith who did not vote at all. Now of course if he and others within his party had been willing to vote alongside Caroline and her neighbours our nation would have got it adopted for communities.
Another theme that emerged last week was an open letter that was written by the NSPCC on Monday calling for “improved access to perinatal mental health support, to rebuild health visiting services and to invest more in family help”. The letter was handed over to No 10 Downing Street during the week and it is addressed to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. There was also an attached petition that at the point it was delivered had already received 22,000 signatures from across our Nation. Along with the NSPCC there were another 24 charities or organisations that signed it including Barnado’s and the Institute of Health Visiting. There was also 14 MPs who signed the letter, two of which came from Sussex which indicates a very significant proportion in our region. One was Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and the people promoting the petition reflected that he was the former children’s minister. The other local MP was Caroline Lucas. Along with his historic role, Tim was the only Conservative MP who was prepared to sign the letter.
It was interesting that more than half of the MPs who signed the NSPCC letter have so far endorsed an Early Day Motion which Caroline Lucas set out back on the 14th of March. Her EDM is on the theme of Right To Roam and it reflects the 90th anniversary of the mass trespass onto Kinder Scout. Her EDM has so far only got 42 signatures. Here in Sussex there has been support from Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Bottomley, the only Conservative MP who has signed it in the UK. Peter Kyle cannot sign it because he is a Shadow Secretary and only backbench MPs can sign EDM’s. It would be great if some of the other Conservative backbench MPs would endorse it. In the meantime, we can acknowledge these three themes have benefited from one Sussex Conservative MP. Perhaps in the future some other MPs might endorse these campaigns and challenge their own political agency. It would also be fantastic if this approach could extend into other themes that we support.