Commons Diary: Luke Pollard
Luke Pollard spends a week 'badgering, poking and cajoling' to get a better deal for Plymouth – and finds cause for hope in the midst of a gridlocked Parliament
I’m a demanding so and so and being one of only two red dots in the far south west there’s added incentive to be unafraid of rocking the boat or demanding more. I don’t think the far south west gets its fair share and my plan to help it get a better deal is two-fold: firstly it requires me to badger, poke and cajole my neighbouring Tory MPs to get more from their government. It’s not a secret plan, rather Opposition 101. Secondly, it requires a willingness to work cross-party. This week had both approaches.
Monday saw my debut on Daily Politics with former Minister Esther McVey. It was quite an experience. While we both spent our early careers in TV, mine was less helpfully in children’s television rather than current affairs. And it showed. Heated banter later and it becomes clear that a chat on Sunday Politics South West and facing down fierce questioning from Jo Coborn is somewhat different. Having not suffered enough my team thought it a good idea for me to get a flu jab. Needles. Lovely.
The victory in the Universal Credit debate stuck in my throat. By not voting Conservative MPs showed their government is too weak to even win a vote on its own flagship, but faltering, welfare policy. Many colleagues said rightly if their constituents didn’t show up for work they wouldn’t get paid. MPs are paid to debate and to vote. Not one, but both. I know many Tory colleagues share that view with me but aren’t yet willing to say it publicly. The government’s stance is unsustainable. Until that changes I’ll be voting even if Tory MPs abstain.
The main action for me was in Westminster Hall where I debated against my fellow Plymouth MP on the government’s upcoming defence cuts programme. My patch is home to the nation’s world-class amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. The Tories have already announced the end of the nation’s helicopter carrier HMS Ocean so we’re down to just two amphibious ships. The speculation that the government is wanting to remove the entire capability and with it the need for Royal Marines is deeply worrying. If it’s only speculation, why not rule it out I asked. The Minister refused. We know why.
Friday saw me speak at the superb South West Growth Summit in Exeter, the smaller city in Devon, about my vision for our region to be louder and prouder about ourselves and relentless in demanding our fair share of funding from Westminster. As politicians, I think those we represent want us to be bolder in our demands for more investment, to build more houses, speeding up train journeys, extend the M5 to Plymouth and address skill gaps. Ending the evening at Devonport Boxing Club I was inspired to see so many volunteers giving up their time. While I didn’t fancy my chances in a bout against any of the 10 year-old boxers in the ring, it is projects like this that help me recharge and remind me what really matters when I’m in Westminster.
Last night, I took my other half to a talk on gay men in World War Two that left me humbled and hopeful. As a proudly out MP hearing the stories of hidden love, abuse and heroism was truly moving. This Parliament may be gridlocked but LGBT rights points to how the Commons can be a place of hope and progress.
Luke Pollard is Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport