I utilised the last morning of recess to catch up with office and administration work and in the afternoon I attended the launch of the SNP council manifesto.
I caught an earlier than usual flight as my select committee started at 9am. The weeks after recess are always busy we have a few outstanding reports waiting to be published. These include ‘lessons learned from the EU referendum’ and the snappily titled ‘MANAGING MINISTERS’ AND OFFICIALS’ CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: TIME FOR CLEARER VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND ACTION’. The former was to be presented to the house on Thursday and so we completed the read through and made the final few amendments. The latter has been delayed at my request as I wanted to get the ex Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in front of the committee to give evidence. In theory ex cabinet ministers can’t take up appointments in positions where their ministerial experience and contacts would give anyone an unfair advantage. The process is that ex cabinet ministers wishing to take up business appointments must request permission from ACoBA (Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) to take up the position. They can then be refused. In practice they are never refused. Mr Osborne now has six jobs. I was wanting to ask him how he manages to have five jobs as well as commit the necessary time to perform his duties as an MP? But we shall never know as events quickly overtook us. We had been informed the Prime Minister was making a statement at 11:15 outside 10 Downing Street. The rumours were about her health or Northern Ireland but as we now know she was going to announce a snap General election. I was in a room with 5 Conservatives and 2 Labour MPs, nobody foresaw the announcement. With that statement our little cloistered world was turned upside down. In the evening our usual SNP group meeting was attended by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and it’s fair to say everyone was very focused on the job at hand.
My diary is changing by the minute as events are cancelled and other hastily arranged. All outstanding business has to be concluded or it falls when Parliament is dissolved. My committee meets twice and we finalise our reports for presenting to the house the following day. In the light of the previous day’s events, questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, were entertaining and Mr Mundell was even more nervous than usual. But he was the only the warm up man for Prime Minister’s questions during which Theresa May defended her decision to call an early election despite parliament having a 5 year fixed term. PMQs was followed by a debate about having an election. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was put in-place to give stability and to prevent political opportunism. However, the Prime Minister has circumnavigated this Act and decided it was in her self-interest to seek a general election.
I am in the House for business questions which is followed by questions to the leader of the house, traditionally these sessions are much more relaxed and even entertaining and given that everyone was in demob mode that’s how it turned out. I then spoke to the report on ‘Lessons learned from the EU referendum’. There was major disruption on the underground so I was just glad to get to the airport in time to catch my flight home.
I start by updating my office team on the process around the snap election. It is not just my job that is on the line. As of the 3rd of May I am no longer an MP and representing myself in any way that looks like I am is illegal. So there are restrictions imposed on me and my office but we still need to handle all outstanding cases. Even without an MP the need for one remains. I have a prearranged meeting with the Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council and a few constituency meetings in my office. As has often been said, that was the week that was.