Commons Diary: Graham Brady
Graham Brady reflects on Parliament’s ‘dog years’ – and hopes Christmas recess will allow for tensions to be calmed and tempers soothed
I have become convinced that humans are now living in dog years: every year is now like seven normal years. The last week proves my theory beyond reasonable doubt. A week ago Jeremy Corbyn entered the ring for PMQs smelling blood over Brexit talks that seemed stuck in phase one; a few days later after Theresa May had landed her deal, everything had changed once again. A week ago, as Tim Shipman launched his new book ‘Fallout’, charting an eventful year in British politics, it seemed like he should have stopped to add another chapter in manuscript. A week on, parliament may not have been calm but we were back to the workaday parliamentary trade-offs to keep the Withdrawal Bill on the road. A mention in despatches is due to the unsung heroes of the Procedure Committee who beavered away for several weeks to cut through all the worries about ‘Henry VIII’ powers.
An early start on Thursday with a meeting at the Centre for Policy Studies about our New Generation project, show-casing the ideas of the many brilliant new Conservative MPs – whilst constantly reminding people that there are some quite good ones who have been around for longer… On to meet a brilliant and much published Conservative academic for lunch, after which I started to feel much more intellectual!
Friday’s Today Programme brought news of breakthrough in Brussels and the rare pleasure of a positive BBC report – short term relief from the usual diet of ‘despite Brexit’ drivel. On to the usual round of advice surgery, meetings and festive gatherings… then to a very enjoyable meal with constituents with a successful business running trips on the trans-Siberian railway. Oh the irony!… When a few inches of snow led to several wasted hours of Sunday afternoon with our train delayed… delayed….and then cancelled.
Monday was spent in a series of meetings, largely devoted to the various codes of conduct that are now being developed – by parliament and by the Conservative Party. If only we could learn not to rush into important changes like this. Where there is wrong-doing, we need to have rules and processes to deal with it, but we also need to take care not to open the door to endless trivial or vexatious complaints that could stop MPs from doing their jobs.
I was very pleased to be able to call in at a parliamentary event to mark next year’s Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle and Gateshead. Two cities with a great engineering heritage and confident of a great future. They are even taking Stevenson’s Rocket home to the North East to mark the occasion (what is it about trains this week?)
After late votes on Monday I have an early start to speak to the London correspondents of EU and overseas newspapers over breakfast at the Cinnamon Club where the full English is a tribute to the way in which friends can embrace each other’s cultures long after they have ceased to be ruled by each other and adopted democratic self-government instead.
Wednesday night’s votes bring us back full circle. The Labour benches cheering a (pretty inconsequential) amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill inflicted despite a government concession that rendered the amendment unnecessary.
I am left hoping that tensions will be calmed, inflated egos will deflate and tempers will be soothed.
We have another four years of this parliament ahead and it will be so much easier if we work together. Just another week and three more late nights until the Christmas recess… but that is an awful lot in dog years.
Graham Brady is Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, chair of the 1922 Committee and Editor of The House magazine