Thursday, July 19, 2018


"Pairing" is an arrangement whereby two MPs on opposite sides of a question agree through their respective party "whips" office that neither will vote, effectively cancelling each other out, to enable them to carry out other work such as a constituency function or representing the country overseas.

Most such arrangements have been honoured but there have been rows going back to when I was at school (and probably well beyond) about occasions when it was alleged that someone broke the deal.

The latest such instance is that during one of the recent Brexit votes, Party Chairman Brandon Lewis was told by the Whips office to vote when he should have been "paired" with Lib/Dem MP Jo Swinson who is on maternity leave. The Chief Whip, Julian Smith, says that this was an honest mistake and both he and Brandon Lewis have apologised to Ms Swinson.

It is important that MPs are seen to be acting with honour and I would always argue that when such arrangements have been made they should be kept.

To put this in context, the Guido Fawkes website has listed here the number of instances when pairs have been broken, writing that

"A former veteran Tory whip texts:

There have been 2,000 pairs arranged since the General Election. 66 have been broken. 14 pairs have been broken by the Government and 52 pairs have been broken by the Opposition (of which 7 were broken by the Lib Dems, despite them having only 12 MPs). 

There is a lot of faux outrage about.

It turns out Labour, and proportionally especially the LibDems, are by some distance the worse offenders when it comes to breaking pairs. It does seem to happen a fair amount – around 3% of pairs are broken, and four-fifths of the broken pairs were committed by opposition parties."

Quote of the Day 19th July 2018

"… the Labour party is perceived by most Jews, thousands of party members and millions of members of the public as an antisemitic, and therefore racist, party."

"I am a secular, immigrant Jew. I have never been active in the Jewish community; my two marriages were to non-Jews. I have visited Israel a number of times and have been a vocal critic of successive Israeli governments on many counts. But I am a Jew. My grandmother and my uncle were murdered by Hitler and many cousins and other relatives were slaughtered in the gas chambers."

"I joined the Labour party to fight racism. In the 1960s the Labour party was the natural home for Jews. To find myself 50 years later, in 2018, confronting antisemitism in my own party is completely and utterly awful."

"Antisemitism has become a real problem in the Labour party. In the last year my colleagues and I have been subjected to a growing number of antisemitic attacks."

"On Tuesday, Labour’s national executive committee agreed its own definition of antisemitism. Instead of adopting the international definition agreed in 2016 in the wake of the rise of antisemitism across Europe, the party chose to omit key examples used in that definition and rewrote the definition to weaken and change it."
"The party thought it knew better than the Crown Prosecution Service, the government, the devolved administrations and local authorities; it thought it knew better than 31 other countries, including Austria, France and Hungary, all of which have adopted the internationally agreed definition in full."
"There was a simple and straightforward alternative that Labour could have chosen. The party could have adopted the international definition in full and it could have launched an inclusive consultation, involving Palestinians and Jews to add to that definition if further clarification of the right to criticise the Israeli government was needed. Instead it chose to offend Jews. It chose to make the party a hostile environment for Jews. It chose to entrench antisemitism."

(Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, extracts from an article in the Guardian which you can read in full here, called

"I was right to confront Jeremy Corbyn over Labour's antisemitism.")

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Midweek music spot: "I am the Monarch of the Sea" & First Lord's song

From "HMS Pinafore" by Gilbert and Sullivan

Barrow & Furness MP resigns from Labour party

John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, has today resigned from the Labour party.

Details of his resignation letter can be found on the North West Evening Mail site here.

Anna Firth writes on the Chequers Agreement

Cllr Anna Firth is Cabinet member for Legal and Democratic Services, and Brexit spokesperson, on Sevenoaks District Council. She is a former Parliamentary Candidate for Erith and Thamesmead, and was Co-Chair of Vote Leave’s Women for Britain.

Here is an extract from an article she has written on the Conservative Home site about why she can support the Chequers agreement and does not agree with those who are using the language of betrayal to describe it.

"I am a committed a Brexiteer. Having campaigned throughout the country for Brexit during the referendum, I was delighted when the result declared that we would be leaving the EU. I have not changed my view.

However, like many, I have followed the ensuing EU negotiations with disgust and disappointment.

Disgust at the way the Commission have exploited the Northern Ireland border issue and refused point blank to settle the rights of EU citizens living here and of UK citizens living abroad to avoid unnecessary stress and upset.

Disappointment also at the Commission’s refusal to discuss the UK/EU future trading relationship upon which millions and millions of businesses and livelihoods depend until the “divorce bill” was settled.

Nothing in Article 50 mandates that money issues had to be settled before human and/or trading issues, and no mature, successful business would treat its single biggest business partner in this way.

I therefore approached the Chequers statement with a bucket full of scepticism. However once I finally managed to escape the shrieking commentariat (who seem primarily interested in driving a pre-determined agenda) and actually read the document, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Is it what I would have drafted? Certainly not. I believe we should have made it very clear from the outset that we were perfectly happy to see a No Deal break with the EU, carrying with it a very modest exit payment. No deal, no payment.

Nothing I have seen in the last two years changes my view that the Commission is an undemocratic group of self-important bureaucrats interested in little more than self-aggrandisement, who were slowly but surely squeezing the life blood from this country.

But I live in a country of 64 million people – and am hugely privileged to do so.

And although I was on the winning side in the referendum, a margin of 52:48 tells me that over 16 million people, a very significant minority, hold the opposing view and believe that we are heading for a disaster.

I am humble enough to know that just because I believe something to the case, doesn’t necessarily make it so. In addition, I have spoken to enough people since the referendum to know that most people did not vote to be worse off, yet common sense tells me that untangling our European ties after 45 years of membership was never going to be simple or cost-free – rather like trying to pick the dissolved sugar out of your cup of tea.

I believe it is therefore beholden on us Brexiteers to respect the genuinely-held views of the opposing side and strive for an agreement that delivers what we voted for, whilst recognising many people’s very real fears and, above all, protecting frictionless trade for the many businesses, jobs and livelihoods that currently depend on it.

And I believe that the Chequers agreement, as amended in the Commons on Monday, does that.

In particular: It clearly aims to provide a common rule book for goods, but “covering only those necessary to provide for frictionless trade at the border”. Domestic goods and / or those goods destined to be sold outside the EU are clearly excluded. The ECJ is replaced with a joint institutional framework for dealing with UK-EU agreements, including the ECJ for EU rules and UK courts for UK rules.

However it explicitly goes on to state “the court of one party cannot resolve disputes between the two.” The UK Government and Parliament will determine the domestic immigration rules that apply, including the ability to agree a new EU mobility framework no different to that the UK may offer other close trading partners in future.

Huge annual budget payments end and we will regain control of our own waters and be outside the Common Agricultural Policy, as widely reported.

Personally, I am concerned by the practicalities around the Facilitated Customs Arrangement, but if the EU and UK authorities are comfortable that they can make it work it would appear to tick a number of necessary boxes.

But if it does not, we can revisit the terms as an independent state operating in our own interests, at a later date.

It is not the perfect agreement and I welcome the four amendments proposed by the ERG and accepted by the Government. However, it is surely one that ticks the majority of the Brexit boxes whilst recognising the very real fears held by many in our country.

Furthermore, it appears to provide at least a fighting chance of the UK being able to negotiate a trade deal with the US as well.

I never thought that as a politician I would find words of wisdom coming from an England footballer. But as a party we would do well to listen to the words of Kyle Walker, England’s central defender:

'We might live in a time where sometimes it’s easier to be negative than positive, to divide than to unite. But England, let us keep the unity alive.'"

You can read the full article on Conservative Home here.

Quotes of the day 18th July 2018

"I am ashamed to be a member of the Labour party"

Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley, endorsing the following statement by Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard:

"Be clear what has happened. Labour has now formally adopted a position that allows its members to be antisemitic. And it has added in, purely for spin, a post hoc "consultation" that no Jewish rep body can now go near. This is a shameful day for Labour."

Both were referencing a Jewish Chronicle article which you can read here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Good news on Jobs

New jobs figures show that in the past year, the number of people in work has reached record highs, unemployment is at its lowest since 1975, and wages are rising faster than prices.


We want to help people into work by reforming welfare and delivering our modern Industrial Strategy to help create more, better paying jobs across the whole country.


There are now a record number of people in work and unemployment has fallen to a 40-year low – meaning more people have the security of a job and are able to provide for their families.


The Conservatives will continue to take the balanced approach our economy needs, creating jobs and opportunities to help people get on in life and build a better future for themselves and their families.


Key statistics


·         Employment: 32.40 million (up 388,000 over the last year and by 3.35 million since 2010).


·         Employment rate: 75.7% (up 0.7 points over the past year and 5.4 points since 2010).


·         Unemployment: 1.41 million (down 84,000 over the past year and down by almost 1.1 million since 2010).


·         Unemployment rate: 4.2 per cent (down 0.3 points over the past year and down 3.8 points since 2010) – the joint lowest since 1975.


·         Wages: Latest figures show that average weekly earnings for employees in real terms increased by 0.4 per cent excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.


·         Youth unemployment: There are over 415,000 fewer young people out of work since 2010. 


Other useful statistics:


·         Wages are rising faster than prices – this is good news, but there is more to do. In the last year, regular pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 0.4 percentage points ahead of inflation.


·         The rate of employment is 75.7 per cent – the highest since comparable records began in 1971.


·         The unemployment rate is 4.2 per cent – the lowest since 1975.


·         The number of disabled people in work has risen by over 830,000 over the last four years.


·         Employment among ethnic minority groups has risen by over 1 million since 2010.


·         Vacancies are at 824,000 over three months to June 2018, up 30,000 on previous year and by 358,000 since 2010.

·         The number of people working full time is at a record high.


·         With almost 1.5 million more women in work since 2010, the female employment rate is at a new record high of 71.3 per cent.


·         Youth unemployment has fallen by 44.2% since 2010.


·         The UK has the third highest employment rate in the G7.


It was Labour that left people with fewer jobs and fewer opportunities:


·         The number of unemployed people increased by one million in Labour’s last term in office.


·         Youth unemployment rose by 44 per cent under Labour – meaning young people were not getting the skills they need to get on in life.


·         The number of women unemployed rose by 25 per cent under Labour.


·         The number of households where no member had ever worked nearly doubled under Labour.


·         No Labour government has ever left office with unemployment lower than when it started. 


Labour would put investment and jobs at risk:


·         Labour have pledged to raise Corporation Tax to 26 per cent by 2020-21 – making it harder for businesses to invest.


·         The IFS say that working people would be hit with lower wages and higher prices by Labour’s tax rises. ‘In the longer term, much of the cost [of tax rises] is likely to be passed to workers through lower wages or consumers through higher prices’.