Friday, 24 October 2008

Speaking in Parliament

Was quite a quiet week this week, although I still didn't get away from London till nearly 9pm tonight - emails, emails and more emails.

Last week I spoke loads - one oral Qs, one speech, several interventions in Westminster Hall and one in Bill committee, and a question in the climate change statement. This week I didn't speak at all - just the way things work out sometimes.

On Monday I missed DWP questions because we have a DFID ministerial team meeting at 3pm, so I have to leave at 2.30pm, when questions start, to walk to the DFID offices. Had a question on the order paper on Tuesday, Women's and Equalities questions, but was number 8 and they didn't get to me. Stayed in the Chamber for the Immigration debate, but there were loads of interventions and no real hook for me to say my piece. Older members don't bother about that; they just stand up and say what they want to say when they want to say it, regardless of whether it's got any relevance to what has just been said. But I always feel that I have to have some tenuous connection with whatever I'm interrupting.

On Wednesday it was Welsh Qs, and PMQs, so no opportunity there. You can bob up and down during PMQs, but depends on the draw and there were already quite a few Labour MPs on the order paper; the Speaker only calls extra Labour members if there are two Tories/ Lib Dems in a row. And today I was out on the Rainbow Warrior and then in the office. Did table quite a few written questions though.

Next week I'm supporting amendments to the Local Transport Bill (Monday) and the Climate Change Bill (Tuesday) but that won't necessarily mean speaking, and I'm Question 16 at Home Office questions on Monday (virtually no chance they'll get that far). So might speak, might not.

Some MPs of course have become expert at turning up at debates, making an intervention as soon as possible, then clearing off. Or they appear at the tail end of a debate when the Chamber is virtually empty and do an intervention then, without worrying whether they're making a point that has already been made twenty times in the last three or four hours. That way they 'get their numbers up' - has a lot to answer for! - but don't have to stay around for the whole thing.

I've been keeping a close eye on a particular Tory MP who seems to pop up at a completely random selection of Westminster Hall debates as well as every ministerial statement; he's either got an extraordinarily broad range of political interests, or he's aiming for 'well above average' by the shortest route possible.

Speaking of, I have 144 people tracking when I speak at the moment. I came across someone the other day who had 4. To be fair, he was in the House of Lords. In idle moments I wonder who has the most people tracking them, and whether anyone has none at all. I'm not quite sad enough to trawl through the whole lot to find out... (almost, but not quite). Surely there's an anorak out there who's done it already? Or is now sufficiently intrigued by the idea to start?

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