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Commons Diary: Rupa Huq

4 min read

What started with a suspicious package ended with a winning joke. Rupa Huq experiences all ends of the spectrum during a topsy-turvy seven days at Westminster


I’m in my select committee on Tuesday when word reaches me via my Parliamentary iPad that my House of Commons office in the Norman Shaw North building is the latest to receive the same suspicious package that found its way to two other colleagues the day before.

It’s the same hate speech letter that had dropped on doormats across the country inviting recipients to “punish a Muslim”, on which an urgent question was asked on the floor of the Commons on Monday, with added bonus of a mystery solution. After no harm was done to recipients the day before I had been wondering who was next.

The committee clerk passes me a note so I slip out from firing off questions to witnesses in the Carillion inquiry I’m in to check what’s going on. My team has been quarantined downstairs while the staffer who opened the letter is with specialist police in boiler suits who are doing a sweep of the office. What with Salisbury and acid attacks in London it’s better to be safe than sorry.

After replying to requests coming in via iPad I head over to Central Lobby. Before the day is out I’ve spoken to BBC, ITV and the Guardian and sat through the Chancellor’s pitiful mini-budget. The chap who opened the substance is taken to St Thomas’ hospital in an ambulance as a precautionary measure then discharged.

I’m told the gunk the letter was smeared in was an “irritant” which sums up the whole episode as a morning has been lost. For the caseworker who handled the letter oozing with sticky stuff it’s difficult to concentrate even after the post-hospital all-clear. He goes home early.

The next day I appear on “Victoria Derbyshire” to discuss the government’s integration statement though inevitably Tuesday’s events come up. I confirm that it was a hate crime and was being investigated by counter-terror police then head back to the Commons. I press Theresa May on speeding up her timetable for dealing with dirty money and she alludes to my own brush with a dodgy substance in her reply promising action on both.

On Thursday I go into the chamber for the urgent question on Grenfell. The charred remains of the building are visible from some parts of my seat. At least one of my constituents attended the silent march the night before which I describe to Sajid Javid, calling on him to instil public confidence as well as public safety into the aftermath. We briefly converse after – he is latest recipient and first Tory to have had the letter with gunk.

Friday turns out to be a good day – a bill for family reunion of refugees is passed. As an opposition MP this is a rare feeling. 

On Sunday I appear at a comedy night at Ealing’s Questors theatre. Monday’s Evening Standard picks out the joke I stole from my 14-year-old son (who came in for a bit of ribbing himself) suggested as winner of the night. Q: “Why did Lionel tidy his room?” A: “Because it was Messi”. Also, the final one was the answer given by Cameron back in the days when Labour were in power and he was asked “Tell us a joke”. The reply was “Nick Clegg”. Alas the words came back to haunt him during the coalition.

On 21 March we launch International Day of the Single Parent with dozens of MPs bringing together among others Philip Davies, Jess Phillips and star turn Robert Peston who speaks movingly on his experiences as a single dad. Gingerbread, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Centre for Social Justice are also all on board.

We all commit to considering the situation of parents raising kids alone (50% of all families in some Parliamentary constituencies) in all future legislation because all families matter. A good end to another busy week.

 

Rupa Huq is Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton

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