Commons Diary: Jess Phillips
Another unedifying week draws to a close. But in amongst the tension and politics at its worst, we were reminded of politics at its best, writes Jess Phillips
This week like all weeks these days was intense. If you read the papers and watch the Sunday shows at the weekend they all speculate that this is the week when the government will crumble, or so and so will resign, and the trailer for the week makes it seem as if it’s going to be momentous and then when you live it, nothing changes – it just feels tense.
This week we all raced to the chamber for the impromptu statement by the Prime Minister while the Twitterati speculated she was going to call and election and in fact she just said there would be no hard border in Ireland and we will need a back stop on customs, which we already knew, and it was a lot of anticipation for nothing.
It overshadowed the publishing of the report by Dame Laura Cox into the bullying and harassment of Parliament staff until the nation’s media realised that nothing had changed and then got stuck in to this damning dossier. I was struck by how well communicated the report was, it was clear in its language and unequivocal in its tone. There had been a failing and MPs and senior managers in the House had been allowed to get away with the most appalling behaviour with impunity. We were all shocked, but few were surprised.
In the urgent question on the subject my anger spilled over. I’m not sure how many read the report, but it was about how the culture of our politics, the patronage and the reverence, had allowed our workforce to be abused.
Some desperate for a scalp of the Speaker for their own ends stood and made selfish statements, alongside others who had come to the same conclusions but from a place of real concern and care.
I’m not sure the House sent an edifying message back to those who had come forward, but it did leave plenty of room for the weekend papers and news programmes to have plenty of resignations to speculate about. I imagine the pattern will continue and all the anticipation will lead nowhere. It is all of our responsibility to change this.
In amongst all of this tension and politics at its worst, we were this week reminded of politics at its best, albeit with sadness. The news that our friend and colleague Baroness Patricia Hollis had died was shocking. Patricia was one of the most active members of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party – which I chair – and a trail-blazing woman in politics. She was the personification of a working peer, forensic, thoughtful and considered. A passionate and learned speaker on social security, she had pretty much predicted every single one of the pitfalls of Universal Credit that was debated in the week she left us. The scrutiny of our laws was left a little poorer by her parting. She should be a reminder to us all what we are actually there to do.
Jess Phillips is Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and Associate Editor of The House magazine