Westminster diary w/b 16th May


Parliament is not sitting until after the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday so I take the opportunity to work from Inverclyde on Monday. This gives me the opportunity to meet with constituents and also to have a valuable sit down meeting with my own team. Usually it’s done over Skype. I catch the 18:50 flight to London and due to a navigational error (too busy talking to fellow passengers) I arrive in my flat at 22:00 after a short detour via Canary Wharf. It appears to be a very grey place that houses massive glass office blocks devoid of any warmth or charm.


Up at the crack of dawn so I can do the Big Ben tour before starting work. It’s basically a walk up 334 steps trying to ignore the terrible stench of the sewers that vent up the tower (renamed Elizabeth but previously known as St Stephens) like a giant chimney. The views from the top are spectacular. I was accompanied by MPs from various parties and Floella Benjamin who is now a Baroness. Lovely lady, her ancestors were slaves brought to Scotland on the back of the sugar trade. She was interested to hear that in Inverclyde we have a Jamaica Street and a Tobago Street amongst other links to the West Indies. I had a very interesting briefing from Alcohol awareness. Amongst the issues raised is that alcohol related illness has increased dramatically since the sales of alcohol swung from pubs to off sales. In 1994 the split was nearly 50:50 now 72% is sold from off sales. Of course by far the largest off sales are supermarkets.


The Queen’s Speech dominates today’s proceedings. Roads are closed, security increased ten fold and the media presence is extraordinary. The SNP MPs all wear a white rose but rather disappointingly it’s not the Burnet rose that Hugh McDiarmid wrote about. Next year we must find a florist that can provide the correct species. The quality of debate varies enormously. David Cameron disappointed, Jeremy Corbyn was poor but that’s expected, Angus Robertson was focused and assured, Christopher Chope (Conservative) blamed everything from parking and fisheries on the EU, Meg Hillier (Labour) spoke up well for the NHS in England, those on benefits and those struggling to get on the housing ladder.


Day two of the Queen’s Speech debate. Business questions are usually the most entertaining of the week and today didn’t disappoint. Chris Bryant, the Labour shadow minister, tore apart the Queens speech in five minutes. Yesterday his party leader wasted forty one minutes and didn’t lay a glove on the government’s weak unfulfilled promises.


Starts with a meeting at ‘Moving On’ an addiction rehabilitation centre. Followed by an interview with the Tele to review my first year as the local MP. After that I was delighted to take part in a photo opportunity to promote the good news that the Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Network will continue to be operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. A quick dash back to my office to meet Morton legend Warren Hawke to discuss the Morton community trust. Then a drop in event for REACH for Autism and in the evening I attended the Inverclyde Sports Personality awards in the Town Hall.