Monday, 22 March 2010


Business has finished early today, which is good because I'm shattered and so is everyone else, but I'm staying in the office to watch Dispatches, of which more in a moment....

We've had a really busy weekend campaigning in east Bristol, and doing constituency work too. I did a three hour surgery on Friday; only one case from the "new" Bristol East and all the others from the bits I lose in the boundary changes. Bristol West is going to be such a high maintenance seat! I also met Action for ME, for a briefing on various issues including Employment Support Allowance claims and how the system doesn't seem to be meeting the needs of people with fluctuating conditions. Saturday included opening the church fete at St Aidans, and meeting a group of residents in someone's house to talk about a planning objection, and on Sunday we were campaigning in Stockwood. And this morning I was at St Brendan's Sixth Form College to meet three different groups of students. (Big contrast between politics students and the rest in terms of engagement and interest, and surprising lack of support for votes at 16 amongst the non-political, on the grounds that 16 year olds don't know anything about politics and aren't informed enough to make a decision, and might just end up doing what their parents tell them to do. I'm definitely in favour of votes at 16, and hope it will be in the manifesto).

The highlight of the weekend however was John Prescott joining us on the campaign trail... He caught up with us in his battlebus on Saturday afternoon in Fishponds, to launch the local "Spring Clean" campaign (inspired by the very lovely Fiaz and Jacqui who run The Base, a veggie B&B on Fishponds Road). Our haul of rubbish included a copy of the Sun, much to John's delight. He also stood on the steps of Fishponds Conservative Club, in his high-viz gear, waving his litter picker, declaring he was going in: "there's a whole load of rubbish in here!" Later on in the day we accosted unsuspecting shoppers in Broadmead, and ended the night with a rousing Brizzup rally at the Trinity Centre.

John Prescott is of course standing down at the next election. And yet he's up for the fight. He's travelling the length and breadth of the nation, campaigning for Labour.

Which brings me back to Dispatches. Compare and contrast John Prescott - on the stumps at the age of 72, fighting for a Labour victory, talking to voters and picking up crisp bags and KFC wrappers with the rest of us - with Stephen Byers, who is barely seen in Parliament these days, naming his 'going rate' of £5000 a day. It's sickening.

Let me put a few things on the table. If you're privileged enough to be elected to Parliament, that is what you should spend your time doing. No second jobs.

A lot of MPs are be standing down in May, but until then, they were elected to do a job, to serve their constituents. They're being paid to do that job. And in putting themselves and their venal desire to line their pockets first, they've let down everyone in the Labour Party, who has been out there working for a Labour fourth term. (And of course the Tories are going to have a field day with this, although it's patently obvious Byers was talking complete and utter nonsense about his supposed influence over decision-making, and any corporates out there who would be prepared to pay him £5000 a day obviously have money to burn).

At tonight's PLP it was announced that the Chief Whip would be watching the programme, talking to those concerned and looking for a speedy resolution, possibly at Wednesday's meeting of the Parliamentary Committee. Harriet Harman also confirmed in the Commons today that there will be tougher rules on lobbying, which were in the pipeline anyway. But all in all, as one wag on Twitter said "It's a good day to bury Stephen Byers".

1 comment:

Glenn Vowles said...

At the St Brendans meeting with politics students you said you favoured votes for 16 yr olds as the Labour candidate. I said I favoured this too, as the Green candidate. Lib Dem candidate Mike Popham said he did too - but you may remember I picked him up on this, stating that he had indicated in the DEMREF 2010 survey that he wanted the voting age to stay at 18. He denied that he had done this but when I checked I found that he has. So, is this an error of some sort or does he change what he says according to the audience in front of him (as Lib Dems often do)??