High drama in Westminster starts the week with the defection, just declared as I write, of seven Labour MPs to form a new Independent group, citing concerns about anti-Semitism, anti-business policies, the hard-left takeover of Labour and how Jeremy Corbyn is unfit for office. I know all of them to varying degrees, as they are the type of MPs, obviously not of my political flavour, who go about their business with a smile to others rather than a snarl. They represent what I would call more ‘traditional’ Labour values, and the more centrist wing of Labour ideals. As an aside, it should be noted that all are ‘perpetual remainers’ who have attempted at every turn since the 2016 referendum to frustrate Brexit.
Many of them support a second referendum as part of that process to stop Brexit; I wonder if they’ll each offer their electorates a ‘second vote’ by calling by-elections? I’m guessing but I bet I know the answer: no. I don’t think they’ll be the last to abandon the leaky ship of Labour.
I’ve enjoyed a high degree of media attention over the past couple of weeks. The failure of the Seaborne contract before it had even started made Ramsgate, once more, the centre of national attention. The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon. Chris Grayling MP has received an unfair amount of criticism and I have defended him, as the withdrawal of Arklow Shipping as backers of Seaborne was a commercial decision for them alone, and nothing to do with the Department for Transport. The Secretary of State is in a position of being damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. It is right that contingency planning for all Brexit outcomes is planned for, much as I have never believed that the important Dover to Calais pinch-point will ever be impeded. On this I believe Jean-Marc Puissesseau, Calais Port President who said “..so where is the problem?”
I also had the opportunity to raise my concerns, in an extended Adjournment debate on the floor of the House, on election law following my trial and the fitness for purpose, or otherwise, of the Electoral Commission. This received coverage across local and national broadcast media. I also had to put the leader of the Opposition right on his statement at Prime Minister’s Question time, when he quoted the cost to local Thanet taxpayers of keeping Ramsgate Port at a state of readiness for commercial shipping at £2m over a seven week period which is wrong by some multiples, and was designed to mislead for a cheap soundbite.
I’ve had some fascinating local meetings. It was good to meet the increasing number of groups under the ABC (A Better Cliftonville) umbrella at their AGM. I’ve met the Council Leader Bob Bayford for a wide-ranging discussion, obviously with Port operations taking centre ground. I had a fascinating meeting with Rethink – a national charity working with those suffering from mental illness with a focus on getting those affected into work. I had a wide-ranging discussion with one of our major local language schools to discuss Brexit and how that may affect them. I recognise the huge value coming to Thanet from this valuable sector. I was much taken with the year 6 pupils at Chilton Primary School and their project looking at ‘courage’ with a focus on Malala Yousafzai the young girl who suffered appalling injuries on her way to school in Pakistan.
This was meant to be a Parliamentary recess week, but this has been cancelled, primarily to use limited Parliamentary time effectively for Brexit related secondary legislation. Good – it’s warming up to be another lively week.