The State Opening of parliament is the opportunity for the UK government to lay out their plans for the coming session. It is a grandiose ceremony of pomp and circumstance. The Queen sends Black Rod to summon us commoners up to the Lords but we shut the door on Black Rod and pretend not to let her in. But then we do. We always do. Then we go to the Lords and the Queen sitting on a gold throne in the House of Lords reads a speech given to her by the Prime Minister. I should say that is after the cellars have been searched by the Yeoman of the Guard and a hostage has been taken and held in case we try and keep the Queen. The Queen’s speech is then debated on over a few days and practically nobody attends. If you think that’s strange the week was just beginning. I joined protestors outside the Spanish Embassy in a show of solidarity for the yellow ribbon campaign to highlight the imprisonment of political prisoners.
There is an urgent question on the prison sentences handed down by the Spanish Supreme Court to the nine political prisoners. Some people may feel this is not an issue that should concern elected members of the UK parliament, but it is sufficiently relevant for the speaker to grant the question. Many people condemn the sentences as an affront to democracy but the Minister responding on behalf of the government doesn’t get it. I quoted Dr Martin Luther King when he said ‘our lives begin to end the day we stay silent about things that matter’. I then met up with a delegation of Kenyan parliamentarians who have grave concerns about UK owned gambling companies that are targeting a new vulnerable market place in Kenya. We shall be monitoring this situation closely. I had a meeting with the Chief Executive of Scottish Power Energy Network and we discussed electric vehicles and the infrastructure required to support them.
It’s my turn to speak on the Queen’s speech and I question the Minister on closures of coastguard centres and job centres in Inverclyde along with the government’s reluctance to support medical cannabis and drug consumption rooms. For a six-minute speech I had to be in attendance for the best part of six hours. It’s nonsense just utter nonsense. We are supposed to be using our time wisely to work towards a constructive outcome regarding Brexit and instead we are going through the motions.
I start the day on College Green giving an interview to the Spanish TV station Antena 3. They have grave concerns over the image that Spain is portraying across the globe regarding the political prisoners and the violence we are seeing from the National Police against peaceful protestors. Rumours around deals with the European Union are in abundance and change by the hour. When we finally get to read what has been offered it has changed very little from what has already been voted down. This time however a deal has been done to keep Northern Ireland in the single market, with a few caveats. The DUP are refusing to back it and it will now be debated and voted on Saturday. The UK Parliament has only sat three times on a Saturday, once during game the Second World War, once during the Suez crisis and again during the Falklands War. Brexit will be the fourth time. That’s how big the mess is. I grab a flight home.
I catch an early train to Edinburgh as I am speaking at the 5th LEAHN (Law Enforcement and HIV Network) consultation on police, drugs and harm reduction. It’s a privilege to be asked to speak along with the experts in this field. We shall only address the issue of problematic drug use when politicians listen to the experts from academia, recovery and lived experience. I catch a tea time flight from Edinburgh back to London. On Saturday we shall debate on the deal and the amendments. Who knows where that shall take us?