Midday flight to London is mobbed with elected and non-elected members. Despite the popularity of the flight to London City it is very rare that I find myself sitting beside another Member. This week was the exception with a row of four comprising Mhairi Black (seat, Lisa Cameron (seat), Gavin Newlands (seat) and me. The rest of the passengers drew a great sigh of relief. On arrival I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Universal Credit. We had a briefing from Child Action Poverty and Unison which covered the 1.6 million households expected to move from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit this year. These households will not receive any transitional protection, even if they are substantially worse off. This will be tough in Inverclyde but thankfully our local jobcentre is at the forefront of modifying the system and lessons will be learned. In the evening the SNP group met with the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP. She updated us on Brexit negotiations and we worked up scenarios and voting procedures prior to tomorrow’s vote. With so many proposed amendments this can be a long drawn out affair. We were expecting votes on the immigration bill but the outcome was less sure as Labour dithered over their intentions and went from a one line whip to a one line whip tinged with desperation. Had they applied a three line whip then there is the possibility the UK Government would have been defeated. We then debated proxy voting but it proved uncontentious and it passed without division. I got back to my (very cold) flat just after midnight.
The morning was taken up by three events organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy reform. We discussed drug consumption rooms, county lines and drug safety testing. There a good number members from both the Lords and Commons there to listen to the expert testimony from police and crime commissioners, Neil Woods (drug squad cop, turned author) and a range of service providers. It was particularly good to see some MPs who have not previously engaged and are now becoming better informed about the issues. The big debate was of course the European Withdrawal Amendments. The behaviour of the Conservative and Unionist Party members towards Jeremy Corbyn MP and Ian Blackford MP was disgraceful. They acted like school playground bullies. Full of their own importance and self-righteous indignation. During the Prime Minsters speech the tory whips were clearly identifying sympathetic Labour members for the Prime Minister to take interventions from. Just another sign of the rudderless Labour Party, lacking leadership and devoid of ideas. At the end of the evening and after a rash of votes on amendments the Prime Minister had managed to produce the situation where she is heading back to Brussels to re-negotiate a deal she said was not up for re-negotiation with the European Union and Ireland already saying they want renegotiate. We shall do it all over again on February the 13th.
I started the day at the Select Committee on Transport where we took evidence on bus services. It seems around the UK we have similar problems. Bus companies can’t afford to run uneconomical routes and the cost of replacing buses after Brexit is frightening. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse the speaker was forced to lecture the Conservative and Unionist Party benches during Prime Minister’s Questions. Their rehearsed and coordinated barracking of Ian Blackford MP was disgraceful. In no other walk of life would grown men and women behave in this manner. The briefing from the CBI on delivering a roadmap to supercharge the UK’s digital infrastructure was more congenial and productive. It was also agreed that the UK Government’s aspiration of a 10Mb universal service obligation was not fast enough and Scotland’s ambition of 30Mb was appreciated. Business in the Chamber is slow so I take the opportunity to head home on a Wednesday which is unusual for me.
I take advantage of an unexpected extra day in the constituency by meeting constituents and discussing a range of issues that affect their lives. This covers, funeral poverty, working in the EU after Brexit and medical cannabis. Parading around the green benches is one thing but the nuts and bolts of any MPs job is helping constituents with the issues that affect their lives. It’s not as glamorous but when we can help, it’s incredibly rewarding.
I held surgeries in Kilmacolm Community Centre, Port Glasgow Library, my constituency office in Crawfurd Street and finally in Gourock Library.