Commons Diary: Seema Malhotra
After reality checks in Brussels and the mystery of vanishing Brexit reports, Seema Malhotra anticipates a famished future of late nights and three line whips
There is the old adage that a week is a long time in politics, but now it’s probably more like a tweet is a long time in politics.
Over the last week Twitter has gone up to 280 characters while the government has lost a cabinet member and 58 sectoral impact studies on Brexit. David Davis has gone from telling me in a committee hearing that they “are in excruciating detail” to saying now it is “not the case [that] they exist”.
To lose one Brexit sector study is a misfortune. To lose 58 suggests the government has been awfully careless. It has been quite extraordinary.
Having the House sitting on Monday and Tuesday before a short recess should have meant a quiet spell but with the clock ticking on Brexit that was not the case. An urgent question was called on when the government would publish the Brexit sector impact after Labour won a historic vote. It’s been a long journey for those of us seeking to get them published through parliamentary questions, a Freedom of Information request and a letter by me and David Lammy and supported by 180 cross party MPs.
On Monday, I also hosted a parliamentary launch for Football for Peace inspired by a young footballer from my constituency Kash Siddiqi – a movement that has now secured incredible backing from governments and sports leaders across the world. It’s using football for a purpose – to help build relationships between people of different backgrounds in our communities and across nations and unite people in the cause of peace. I also met with violence against women campaign groups to discuss campaign ideas, priorities for the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, rising DV rates in our constituencies and sexual harassment in politics.
Tuesday afternoon also saw a trip to Brussels for the Brexit Select Committee. The Eurostar journey whizzed by with tales from the past from Hilary Benn and John Whittingdale on the Eurostar. MPs don’t often get more than five mins to chat as every day is like a treadmill. Brexit discussions took over again and the 24-hour immersion with leading MEPs, Michel Barnier, Guy Verhofstadt and others was a serious reality check. While we’re stuck in our own unreality (couldn’t think of a better word) – Europe’s organised, thinking ahead, and starting to move on.
Meanwhile we still await government’s publication of the studies which cover 88 per cent of our economy, they can now no longer keep 29 million British workers in the dark about the impact Brexit may have on their jobs, careers and livelihoods.
On Wednesday, after an intense day in Brussels, I head on back to London with select committee colleagues Craig Mackinlay and Christopher Chope. I hold my hands up: like 21,999 others I was caught in the frenzy (and borderline hype) of tracking Priti Patel’s flight from Jomo Kenyatta International to Heathrow – and eventually Downing Street as she resigned as International Development Secretary. We are always working.
Remembrance Sunday is a must-do in my calendar. With five local Royal British Legions, and the amazing way the streets this year were lined with large poppies on lamp-posts, they have done an incredible job reaching out and building support from the community. Huge credit to Mike Foston from Feltham for his vision and making Remembrance Day so visually powerful. The local Gurdwara was also doing an exhibition and event and recognising the contribution of Sikhs to our armed forces. I visited three RBLs and made a couple of home visits to get ahead – with the EU Withdrawal Bill looming I’m going to be lucky to get to sleep or eat for weeks.
With Parliament now back sitting and with the EU Withdrawal Bill now finally at Committee Stage this means three line whips and very late nights. This will be a long and arduous process but it is the most significant Bill put before the Commons for the past 50 years and we need to get it right for every single person in the country. In between debates, colleagues meet in the corridors and discuss amendments or their new clauses (like my NC69 – did I mention that?). The Telegraph produced an interesting front page and headline, sadly it had misspelt “scrutineers”. Parliament has found its voice and taken back control, the government has run at every turn, but it can no longer hide.
A week in politics is a long time? 498 days to Brexit will feel like an eternity.
Seema Malhotra is Labour MP for Feltham and Heston