Watching the farcical Prime Minister’s Questions today

It’s not my normal habit to watch Prime Minister’s Questions on TV. Not even sure why today of all days that I did watch.

What a day to choose to watch.

Theresa May’s words on the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy were well delivered, recovering some lost ground in her earlier failures on the subject. Jeremy Corbyn hit home with some choice comments on Boris Johnson’s leaked remarks, making it uncomfortable for both Mrs May and Boris.

The Prime Minister was on firmer ground explaining the contortions of Brexit voting and backstop arrangements, again committing the country to leaving the EU, single market, and customs union.

Then, absolute uproar. Ian Blackford MP, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, ensured his dismissal from the chamber by refusing to accept a ruling from the Speaker. On leaving the chamber, all of the SNP members followed him out of the chamber.

In my view the Speaker lost control of events. That he wasn’t able to respond to the developing situation without having the House of Commons clerk continually offer him advice, I thought showed a surprising lack of knowledge of procedure, about which he should know more than members.

Of the SNP’s tactics, a pretty amateurish debating strategy. You can only do this once, so it ought be on a phenomenally important point, and this one isn’t that. I have some sympathy with the SNP not getting a chance to speak in yesterday evening’s debates. But to come up with this pre-planned tactic at PMQ’s – to confect outrage at a perceived slight on the Scottish parliament – while then not recognising the offer of an almost immediate debate on their point by the Speaker, proves P. G Wodehouse’s famous quote,

It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.

Keep Windlesham in Surrey Heath Parliamentary constituency

The Boundary Commission for England has issued a report on the Revised proposals for new constituency boundaries in the South East.

The recommendation is that the electoral ward of Windlesham should be moved from Surrey Heath parliamentary constituency to a Windsor constituency. See page 4 of the proposals.

Monday 11th December is the closing date for submissions on this proposal. If you consider this change illogical and unreasonable, then please visit  https://www.bce2018.org.uk/, enter your postcode, click on ‘Make a Comment’ and tell the Boundary Commission why Windlesham should stay in Surrey Heath.

I’ll be submitting my comments today. My arguments will be,

  • Fracturing the longstanding cultural and democratic links between Windlesham and it’s nearest neighbours in Surrey Heath will, over time, drive Windlesham residents to focus on the Windsor constituency and its parliamentary activities.
  • By way of example, here a some of the many cultural and logistical things that Windlesham shares with Lightwater, its nearest Surrey Heath neighbour,
    • church diocesan links and heritage
    • annual remembrance day services, where MP’s, would be misaligned to services
    • Lightwater’s large shopping parade
    • Lightwater’s GP practice serves Windlesham, and it’s a member of Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group
    • Small shared cultural organisations, such as Windlesham Country Market who meet in Lightwater, who might want their MP it officiate at significant dates, may be confused as to which MP to invite.
  • The proposed change will create political representational confusion, where,
    • At Parish council level, Windlesham shares a Parish Council with Lightwater and Bagshot.
    • At Borough Council level, Windlesham ward is in Surrey Heath Borough Council
    • The Surrey County Council ward is Bagshot, Windlesham, and Chobham
    • The Parliamentary constituency is proposed to be Windsor – containing, Windsor & Maidenhead, a large unitary authority in Berkshire.
  • Local government services would continue to be provided by Surrey Heath. Therefore, Surrey Heath’s MP might not unreasonably be expected to be engaged in Windlesham affairs, as the Windsor MP would have for borough/unitary councils engage with, and Windlesham would be the smallest of the constituency wards.
  • Difficulty in travel from Windlesham to a Windsor MP’s constituency office.

Al things considered, moving Windlesham ward into Windsor is illogical, as it involves moving a Surrey County ward into a different county, that of Berkshire.

There’s little cultural or democratic synergy between the Windlesham and Windsor, while Surrey Heath is far closer culturally and democratically to Woking and Rushmoor boroughs. Time to rethink the proposal.

One suggestion might be to join all the military lands together by moving Brookwood, from Woking, into Surrey Heath, where there’s a natural barrier in the route of the Basingstoke Canal. Perhaps, with one of the Ash wards in Surrey Heath moving into into Guildford.

Being a naughty boy in Parliament yesterday

With a party of colleagues, I toured the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

It was informative, instructive, and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s an amazing place, being able to enter the Commons and Lords chambers while Parliament is sitting is special. To see the parliamentary staff prepare the Commons chamber, and being able to speak to them while they’re do so, is a privilege.

Now, to my being a naughty boy. Photography in most of the parliamentary estate is discouraged. It’s allowed in the Central Lobby, well, I think it is. It’s from where the TV reports and interviews occur. I took a photo of the ceiling and chandelier, and then was a bad boy and took a photo in the Members Lobby, strictly against the rules. It was of the statue of the Mrs Thatcher – aka the ‘Blessed Margaret’.

I just about got away with it, and was hoping to take a photo of the statue of Winston Churchill, but frosty looks, and a few people shouting, Tim! Thoughts of dungeons and the Tower crossed my mind.

Do watch Steve Richards’ Leadership Reflections talks on TV

The older readers among you will remember the TV lectures on history, diplomacy and warfare by A J P Taylor. With a map as the background, Taylor stood in front of the camera and expounded his views. These lectures were riveting in their erudition and scope. Other TV lecturers in the same period, Prof Sir Mortimer Wheeler on archaeology, and Lt Gen Sir Brian Horrocks on battles, were as captivating just talking to camera.

This type of TV lecture seems to have gone out of fashion, until now with journalist and columnist Steve Richards’ Leadership Reflections – a series of unscripted talks on the theme of leadership focusing on six prime ministers.

We’ve watched five of the six programmes, only Tony Blair remaining, and have enjoyed Steve Richards talks enormously. Having lived through the era of all six prime ministers his reflections resonated with me.

The, difficult to find, lectures are on the BBC Parliament Channel, and now on they’re on iPlayer, there’s no excuse to not watch them.

Predicted Parliamentary constituency election results at ward level

My dear wife found the Seat Explorer in the Electoral Calculus website, which gives ward by ward predictions for every parliamentary constituency. It’s a well-presented and easy to use resource, and is well worth time, for political nerds, having a wander around.

Below is their ward predictions for the Surrey Heath constituency. I ‘ll compare their predication to the result, and show them both here. [Click on the image to go directly to the website]

Respect to those who lost their lives, were injured, and who gave assistance

As the information about the terrorist incident in Westminster became clearer, it was obviously serious with 5 deaths and 40 injured.

My intended posts seem a little banal in comparison to the death of the unarmed policeman, the display of courage by the police and the MP Tobias Elwood.

Think Prime Minister’s words about the incident appropriate to repeat here,

“Once again today, these exceptional men and women ran towards the danger, even as they encouraged others to move the other way.”

“These streets of Westminster, home to the world’s oldest parliament, are ingrained with a spirit of freedom that echoes in some of the furthest corners of the globe.”

I recommend Harry Cole’s witness report in The Sun for it’s brutal reality of horror and heroism.

The Houses of Parliament restoration and renewal programme

There’s been much comment about the restoration project for the Houses of Parliament. Now Parliament has published – through its Restoration and Renewal website – where the restoration is needed, including the various reports of the need for renewal. Click on the image below to link to the website.

houses-of-parliament-restoration-website