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After a few weeks’ hiatus to cover the Conservative Party leadership contest, I am now able to conclude my series on Red Wall MP Marco Longhi, who represents Dudley North in the West Midlands.

Those who missed them might find Parts 1 and 2 of interest.

Boris tribute

Marco Longhi paid Boris Johnson a brief but heartfelt tribute during the Prime Minister’s final PMQs on July 20, 2022:

A long time ago, when I trained as a pilot, I had the luxury of being able to fly around turbulent storms. I also had the ability to rely on a team who kept my aircraft airworthy. As the Prime Minister prepares his new flight plans, may I suggest that he resets his compass to true north and stops off in Dudley, where he will always be welcomed with open arms and sincere affection, and where he will be able to see his legacy?

Boris replied:

I thank my hon. Friend for that renewed invitation. I have spent many happy days with him in Dudley; let us hope that there are more to come.

The Archbishop of Canterbury on Rwanda

After the first scheduled deportation to Rwanda on June 14, 2022 proved to be a non-starter, the Archbishop of Canterbury made his views known yet again.

On June 15, The Express reported (emphases mine):

In a Tweet he wrote: “To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them.

“But deportations — and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries — are immoral and shame us as a nation.”

This, rightly, elicited reaction from some Red Wall MPs:

Red Wall Conservative MPs were furious at the attack on Home Secretary Priti Patel and suggested that Welby give up his two palaces, which come with his Archbishopric, to house illegal migrants and use his personal wealth to pay for their needs.

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson said: “If the Archbishop of Canterbury truly believes that we should do more to keep illegal immigrants in this country and love thy neighbour as thyself then perhaps he should give up his two palaces and pay for all the accommodation costs.

“He can then instruct every Church in the UK that their vicarages should also be given up to illegal immigrants to stay in. These are practical measures he could take to assure the great British public that the Church is doing all it can during these difficult times.”

The Archbishop’s main residence is Lambeth Palace – south of the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament.

As well as numerous bedrooms the 800-year-old palace boasts extensive gardens, a large library, an atrium, “the pink drawing room” and a state dining room.

Meanwhile, his residence in Canterbury is the Old Palace or Archbishop’s Palace, another grade I-listed 800-year-old building where one of the bedrooms was used by the Queen.

Marco Longhi echoed those sentiments:

In a personal message directed at the Archbishop, Dudley North MP Marco Longhi added: “Archbishop, as you appear to feel so strongly about this, will you give up two of your palaces for illegal migrants and pay for their accommodation?

“I note how it is the liberal privileged elite, unaffected by the impact of illegal immigration, whose moral outrage is loudest.”

Well said.

Policing

When Boris won the December 2019 general election, increasing the numbers of police around England was a manifesto pledge.

On December 14, 2021, Longhi recognised the efforts the Government had made thus far in the West Midlands:

This Government value all our police officers. That is why, with our 11,053 extra police officers, we are not on target, but ahead of target to deliver our manifesto pledge of 20,000 new officers; there are 867 new officers already working in the West Midlands.

The financial settlement gave West Midlands police an inflation-busting 5.8% increase to its budget—a staggering £36 million. In addition, the rises in local tax that residents pay, together with council tax, put West Midlands police at the top of league tables across the country for precept increases; since 2012, a staggering increase of 79% has been imposed on people in Dudley North and across the West Midlands by the Labour police and crime commissioner.

Dudley people—and those across the West Midlands, I am certain—can see that effective policing is about more than just money. It is about local decision making and how that filters down from the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner.

Longhi was having a go at Labour for taxing West Midlands residents excessively but delivering little value for money with regards to policing. A Labour MP asked him to give way for an intervention, but he refused:

I would rather not, just now. The facts sadly speak for themselves. We need the right strategy for deploying all the new police officers we recruit, making the right decisions locally, and having the will and competence to deliver on them. The Labour police and crime commissioner has closed dozens of police stations, while spending more than £30 million on refurbishing plush offices at his headquarters in Lloyd House in Birmingham.

Another Labour MP asked to intervene, but Longhi refused to do so.

A commotion arose.

This took place in Westminster Hall, where niche debates take place rather than in the House of Commons. This one focused on West Midlands policing.

Sir Edward Leigh (Conservative) was the chair:

Order. Calm down. The hon. Gentleman does not have to give way if he does not want to.

Longhi continued, pointing out Labour’s ability to rake in tax money then do nothing for local people:

Meanwhile, Dudley and Sedgley police stations have closed. Some hope was given to Dudley people when a new police station was promised in Dudley. It was hailed by my predecessor—the noble Lord Austin—as a new multimillion-pound station to replace the one in Brierley Hill. Several years later, we are still waiting for it. In 2019, it was announced that it would open in 2021, yet no detailed plans have been submitted by the police and crime commissioner to the council planning department.

Dudley is a major metropolitan town—I believe it is the largest town in the country that is not a city—and it has been without a central police station since late 2017. We are paying the price for no presence as a result of inaction and incompetence. Perhaps the Minister might inquire of the police and crime commissioner when Dudley people might see shovels in the ground and the promised new station.

I have great respect for a local police inspector in Dudley by the name of Pete Sandhu and his team. They are trying their utmost to make do with offices borrowed from Dudley Council that are, quite frankly, not fit for purpose. Inspector Pete Sandhu, the local police teams and PCSOs in Dudley town, the surrounding villages and those across the West Midlands not only deserve but need a station that is fit for purpose. Unfortunately, time and again, Labour police and crime commissioners have failed their constituents—including mine.

At the end of the debate, Kit Malthouse, the then-Minister of State for Crime and Policing, responded on behalf of the Government:

I have never shied away from those difficult financial decisions that have to be taken. Nevertheless, generations will pass, and maybe in 50 years the Labour party will stop talking about that period of austerity and talk about what is happening today. Today, I thought I was coming to a debate about the value of neighbourhood policing. However, it has become obvious that this is a pretty naked political manoeuvre in advance of some difficult financial decisions that the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands will have to make as he moves towards setting his council tax. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) has highlighted how significantly council tax has increased over the past few years

I find these debates a bit disheartening because of the lack of curiosity exhibited by Members about the performance in the West Midlands. For example, they never ask themselves why other police forces are doing better. Why is Liverpool doing better than the West Midlands? Why is Humberside doing better than the West Midlands? …

I will give way in a moment. Those Members are unwilling to acknowledge the reason, which is that decisions were made by the previous Labour police and crime commissioner that set the West Midlands back. They have to take responsibility for those decisions; they cannot, I am afraid, just come to this Chamber and keep saying that everything that goes wrong in the West Midlands is the Government’s fault, and that everything that goes right is the Labour party’s achievement. Nobody is buying that in Edgbaston, Selly Oak, or anywhere else in the West Midlands. They recognise that difficult decisions had to be made, and I urge the Labour party to acknowledge those difficult decisions.

David Jamieson was not all good, and he was not all bad. He had difficult things to do, and he made a set of choices that produced a particular outcome and a particular baseline in the West Midlands. I have no doubt that that was what he said in the elections that he won, and that the people of the West Midlands took him at his word and believed him. They have re-elected a Labour police and crime commissioner, so presumably they are happy with that performance, but complaining that everything that goes wrong is down to the Government seems a little naive to me.

Malthouse concluded:

The West Midlands made a certain matrix of decisions that resulted in the outcome today. A number of forces around the country made different decisions. As a result, they will have more police officers than they had in 2010. That is something with which hon. Members will have to wrestle; I am afraid that is the plain truth.

On neighbourhood policing, I am pleased to hear that there is a thrust in the West Midlands to invest in neighbourhood policing, not least because the neighbouring Staffordshire force has been doing that for some years, to great effect. The police and crime commissioner and the former chief constable there took the decision to invest in neighbourhood policing and, interestingly, traffic policing, as the basic building blocks of an excellent delivery of service to their people. As a result, they saw significant reductions in neighbourhood crime. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North referred to the uplift number, which is 800-odd. I encourage exactly that kind of intervention. It is what lies behind our desire to expand the number of police officers in the country.

Fireworks

I strongly disagree with Marco Longhi’s desire to see ordinary people banned from using fireworks.

It has only been in recent years that virtue signallers have made complaints about a splendid celebratory tradition that has been going on for centuries.

In England, at least, fireworks may be used only a few months during the year and, even then, only on certain days:

  • 15 October to 10 November;
  • 26 to 31 December;
  • 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year.

However, not everyone obeys the rules. Furthermore, the rules are not enforced in equal measure.

So, Longhi took a survey of his constituents on the matter.

On November 8, 2021, a debate on fireworks took place in Westminster Hall. Although this debate has taken place often in recent years, this particular one was triggered by an online e-petition. The number of signatures required a parliamentary debate.

Longhi said:

There is no denying that access to fireworks in the UK is easy and that enforcement of existing legislation is poor. Although many of us have enjoyed firework displays over the last week to celebrate Diwali or to remember the foiled plot to blow up this House, many, if not more, are traumatised by fireworks. Last year, following scores of pieces of correspondence from constituents, I decided to open a public survey so that all my constituents could share their thoughts on fireworks and the impact they have. I received both positive and negative feedback, but I was truly shocked by the sheer volume of responses I received, many of which were overwhelmingly negative. Given the nature of the internet, the survey spread widely—some might say it went viral—and I found myself with well over 1 million hits on Facebook and well over a 100,000 survey returns.

We have heard about the trauma to pets and livestock. As we approach Remembrance Day, let us also spare a thought for our veterans and those suffering from PTSD, for whom loud and unexpected bangs and flashing lights can have a devastating effect on quality of life.

We have had many Australian influences on legislation over the years, and perhaps it is time for some more. At present in the UK, there is no legal requirement to have any form of licence or training in order to let off consumer fireworks. Fireworks can be sold at any time of the year and can be bought online. In Australia, it is illegal for someone to buy, possess or discharge fireworks unless they hold a pyrotechnician’s licence or single-use licence. Authorities must be notified of all firework displays, and authorised events can be found using the authorities’ fireworks display search.

One question that I would ask all Members in this room and those unable to join us today is this: should local authorities take the location of public displays into consideration when granting them a licence and should they require displays to be well publicised in the surrounding area? Furthermore, is it right to place greater restrictions on the sale, purchase and use of fireworks? If we agree, surely we can then find an agreeable compromise that protects those who are traumatised by fireworks.

I have already had discussions with my hon. Friend the Minister about this issue and I greatly appreciate his time, but it is time we had a wider debate and an honest discussion. This debate is had every year, but there are no real legislative changes. Surely the time is right for that to happen now.

Paul Scully, who was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at the time, responded for the Government.

I agree with what he said:

… I am grateful to the members of the public who took the time to sign the e-petition that has brought us here to Westminster Hall to discuss this important matter, because it has received more than 300,000 signatures and calls on the Government to limit the sale of fireworks.

Therefore, I will take the time to outline and explain the Government’s position on this matter, and to say, first of all, why we believe—although I understand that it is not the subject of this debate, as has been outlined—an outright ban on fireworks or an outright ban on their sale to the public is not the appropriate course of action.

We have concerns that banning fireworks in that way could have significant adverse and unintended consequences for public safety, particularly in leading to the emergence of a black market in illicit fireworks. There was a reason why there was not a 2019 debate on this issue. Yes, it was the year of a general election, but more importantly in 2019 the Petitions Committee conducted an inquiry on this issue, which I was a part of as a Member of the Committee, and the evidence given by interested parties aligned with the Government’s current view. Those interested parties included both the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the National Fire Chiefs Council.

The petition being debated today also highlights the concerns that some people have—understandably—about the impact of fireworks on vulnerable groups and animals. These are issues that I was only too pleased to discuss with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) when we met back in July to discuss the fireworks survey that he had carried out in his constituency; as he said, it went somewhat viral. I really sympathise with those views, and I am always sorry to hear the stories of how some individuals and animals have been affected by fireworks. That is why the Government are committed to promoting the safe and considerate use of fireworks, and why we have been carrying out a programme of action on fireworks to ensure that those who use them do so safely and appropriately.

It is important to say that this is a highly regulated area, with a comprehensive regulatory framework already in place to control the sale, availability and use of fireworks. We believe that this framework strikes the right balance for people to enjoy fireworks while aiming to reduce risks and disturbances to people and animals. For example, current legislation sets an 11 pm curfew on the use of fireworks, with later exceptions only for the traditional firework periods of 5 November, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year.

A load of concerned Opposition MPs from Labour and the Scottish National Party piled on with interventions.

Scully replied on noise and trading standards questions:

There is a 120 dB noise limit on fireworks available to consumers. Retailers are restricted to only selling consumer fireworks during a limited period around each of the seasonal celebrations that I just referred to, and retailers may only supply fireworks to the public outside those periods if they obtain a licence from their local licensing authority. However, I fully appreciate that it is just as important to ensure that legislation is enforced effectively. We have heard of some issues where that has fallen short, but I will describe what powers and mechanisms are in place against the illegal sale and use of fireworks.

Local authority trading standards work with retailers to ensure that the fireworks that are sold are safe, and have powers to enforce against those who place non-compliant fireworks on the market. Trading standards and local fire and rescue authorities in metropolitan counties can also enforce against those selling fireworks without an appropriate licence—for example, outside of the normal selling period.

He also said, in response to Opposition MPs:

In our polling, the Government found that 11% of the population want a total ban on fireworks, 36% want a ban on the private sale of fireworks, and, from memory, 64% enjoy the use of fireworks and want to be able to enjoy them both privately and publicly. We came to similar conclusions from our evidence as were reached by the Petitions Committee in its 2019 inquiry. In the extensive report setting out its findings, the Committee concluded that introducing further restrictions on fireworks was not the appropriate course of action, due to the potential unintended consequences. That was just two years ago. We agree with that position.

We acknowledge the experience of people who believe that banning fireworks would push the market underground and make it more difficult to regulate and monitor. We also agree with the Committee’s conclusion that such a ban would have a substantial economic effect on those who have built their livelihood in the fireworks industry. Restricting fireworks would probably also have dire consequences for community displays, which raise funds for good causes.

Due to those significant concerns, the Government believe that the most balanced course of action is to continue to pursue non-legislative measures on fireworks to complement existing legislation. That is the position we set out and committed to in our response to the Petition Committee’s inquiry.

Leave our fireworks alone!

I’ve only ever bought sparklers, but I have no idea where my neighbours purchase their fireworks.

For years, our local superette used to have a large, locked counter filled with fireworks at the appropriate time of the year. They got rid of that over a decade ago.

Our neighbourhood’s home displays of fireworks, which I used to be able to watch from the comfort of my living room and kitchen, have also decreased over the past few years.

I disagree with Longhi on this subject. However, it is good that he respected his constituents’ wishes, conducted a survey and presented the results to the Government.

Business of the House questions

Marco Longhi and Lee Anderson seem to have struck up a friendship. I often see them sitting together in the Commons.

Perhaps Lee’s Ashfield food bank brought them together.

This is from the Business Debate of November 25, 2021, when Jacob Rees-Mogg was still Leader of the House.

Anderson said:

Last Friday I was joined by my hon. Friends the Members for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), for Bassetlaw (Brendan Clarke-Smith) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) in a “Ready Steady Cook” event in Ashfield. With the help of the local food bank, the college and local top chef Dave Marshall, we were able to produce 175 meals for just 50 quid. This is our fight against food poverty. Does the Leader of the House agree that we need a debate in this place on food poverty, so we can help people to cook on a budget and feed the nation?

Rees-Mogg replied:

I commend my hon. Friend for his amazing achievement and his hard work. I have a friend who teaches people to cook on a budget and runs something called Bags of Taste, which is a very successful way of encouraging people to cook on a budget. My hon. Friend is leading by example.

In the same debate, Longhi raised a complaint about a group of Travellers who refused to move on when they should have:

Yesterday, I received a three-page letter from the leader of Dudley Council. A designated Traveller site in Dudley has been occupied by Travellers who have overstayed the terms of their licence. After due process was followed in the courts in co-operation with the police, the police commander refused to support the council to give cover to bailiffs, citing the European Convention on Human Rights, as Travellers may have rights.

Will the Leader of the House agree to look into the matter and arrange a statement from the relevant Minister? This sets a terrible precedent for councils across the country, which may find that they have wasted taxpayers’ money by following legislation set out by this place to invest in designated sites. It can provide indefinite leave to stay illegally, with no protection for landowners. It implies that the police can “woke interpret” and choose to follow laws other than this country’s and its courts’ instructions. Does that not give further credence to the need to repeal the Human Rights Act, as I have been calling for for many months?

Rees-Mogg gave a theoretically correct reply on policing by consent, which, as we saw during the pandemic, no longer works as such.

He also seemed reluctant to condemn the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the UK is still a signatory:

My hon. Friend asks an excellent question. It is really important that we are all equal under the law, and it is fundamental that the law is carried out by the police. We police by consent; the police are us, and we are the police. For that to work, people have to have confidence that the law will be enforced. Having said that, I do not know the specific details of the case or the reasons for the police decision, but the Government are taking more action to deal specifically with the issues around illegal campsites and associated criminality. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s comments to the Lord Chancellor, and I note with great interest what he has to say about the Human Rights Act.

A new Human Rights Act is making its way through the Commons, with the intention that it frees us from EU conventions. However, why we cannot use and enforce the original one, the 1688 Bill of Rights, puzzles me.

King Kong

To end on a lighter note, on January 28, 2022, the Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill debate took place.

Suzanne Webb, the Conservative MP for Stourbridge, discussed little-known artefacts and the importance of taking good care of them.

This includes a replica of King Kong:

I now want to tell the tale of an artefact of great distinction and notoriety that resided in the Midlands: an 8 foot tall, 890 kg fibreglass statue commissioned for display in Birmingham in 1972, as part of the sculpture for public places scheme in partnership with the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was commissioned to make something city-oriented, and the sculptor chose King Kong—I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) remembers the King Kong that resided in Birmingham. I do not want hon. Members to do a quick Google now, as I will be told off by Mr Speaker, but when they leave the Chamber, they can see the incredible artefact that was in Birmingham and supposed to represent it. It was down to the sculptor’s association with New York City, and he created it for their own petty reasons. It was displayed in the heart of the city for many years—imagine if it was actually seized! It was something of a notoriety, and I loved it as a child growing up. We used to drive round to look at it. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that King Kong lives on, and is now retired in Penrith.

Longhi made no reference to King Kong in his speech, but commended the Bill as an important contribution to preserving our culture and history, good and bad:

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies) and to speak about this straightforward and reasonable Bill, which has been designed in a specific and targeted way, and will only help to support a sector that, like so many others, has been affected during the pandemic.

Our museums and cultural institutions in the United Kingdom do an incredible job. They have the power to transcend barriers, to preserve and to educate. Our museums, galleries and cultural institutions teach us about the past—the good, the bad and the ugly. By learning about the past, we can be inspired for the future to do better or learn from past mistakes. They stimulate our brains and make us smarter.

My Dudley North constituents are lucky that we have many rich cultural institutions on our doorstep: the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Zoo and Castle, the Wren’s Nest site of special scientific interest, the Dudley Canal Tunnel Trust, nature reserves, our microbreweries and pubs, and our bowling greens and parks. The list really does go on.

——————————————————————–

I am pleased to say that Longhi supported Kemi Badenoch in the Conservative Party leadership contest.

All the best to him for a long and satisfying parliamentary career.

Last Friday’s post introduced the Red Wall MP Marco Longhi, who represents Dudley North in the Black Country area of the Midlands.

The Black Country is so-called for its long coal mining history.

On March 31, 2022, Marco Longhi gave an excellent interview to Nigel Farage on GB News, which shows the measure of the man — level headed, polite and pragmatic:

Longhi said that having served in local politics — he was mayor of Walsall for two years beginning in 2017 — was a good way of preparing for becoming an MP.  His maternal grandfather Wilfred Clarke was also mayor of Walsall in 1978.

Before that, Longhi served as a local councillor in 1999.

The conversation between him and Farage turned to the 2019 phenomenon of the Red Wall seats that voted Conservative for the first time.

Longhi, whose mother’s side of the family had a career history of working in the mines, said that miners were overwhelmingly Labour voters. However, by the time the Brexit referendum came about in 2016, they started to question their allegiance for Labour, which seemed to be ignoring them.

Longhi’s Dudley North constituency voted to Leave in the referendum: 72 per cent. In subsequent elections, he and Farage agreed that Labour’s dominance began breaking up, with voters turning to either UKIP or the Brexit Party.

Longhi said that, when the historic December 2019 election came around, Dudley North’s voters rallied around Boris Johnson’s premiership. Of Boris, Longhi said that the PM was:

able to sprinkle that little bit of gold dust.

Farage, not wanting to miss an opportunity to criticise the Conservatives, asked Longhi about their Net Zero policy. Farage mentioned the fracking company Cuadrilla, which was awaiting permission from the Government to begin extracting shale gas in the North of England. To date, they still are.

Longhi said that, while he supported the general push towards decarbonisation, he said it has to be done ‘pragmatically, step by step’.

Farage said he was concerned about the cost of living. Longhi agreed and hoped that the Government could do something about reversing their new taxes, brought in to help pay for the cost of the pandemic measures, e.g. furlough and business grants.

Longhi agreed when Farage expressed concern that the Conservatives could lose the next election. Longhi said that the pandemic had truly paralysed Parliament for two years — acknowledging that the public would not accept that — and that two years to make up lost ground was not long enough. Longhi said that, when he was elected in 2019, he foresaw that it would take two Parliaments — ten years — to get the Conservative policies from the manifesto in place.

Therefore, he said he has been trying to set voters’ expectations for the next election.

Farage said that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is positioning himself as a safe pair of hands. Longhi agreed, saying:

I have been talking about this danger since the day I was elected.

I am pleased since the recent shake-up at Number 10 [post-Partygate] they are more receptive, there are different people in place, and I really hope, for all of our sakes, that those changes are going to be acted upon.

Longhi said that being an MP is

the best job in the world

and that he enjoys helping out his constituents wherever he can. He says that the occasional thank you note he receives in return adds to that personal satisfaction.

Boris

Unlike other Conservative MPs, Longhi has not made any pronouncements about Boris Johnson.

Instead, he, as the UK’s trade envoy to Brazil, tweeted his delight at meeting one of the country’s former presidents:

He also tweeted his support for shale gas:

We now move on to looking at Marco Longhi’s participation in Parliament.

Mayor of Walsall – mental health

On May 8, 2018, when Longhi, not yet an MP, had become mayor of Walsall again for another one-year term, the Conservative MP for Walsall North commended him in a session on Health and Social Care (emphases mine):

Eddie Hughes: I hope the Minister will join me in congratulating the mayor of Walsall, Marco Longhi, whose mayoralty has raised a significant sum to support WPH Counselling and Education Services, which provides adolescent mental care and counselling in Walsall.

Jackie Doyle-Price responded on behalf of the Government:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter, and I very much welcome the contribution made by the charity to support teenagers in his constituency with psychological therapies and to help to address their mental health conditions. I join him in extending my congratulations to the mayor for choosing this very important cause and for endeavouring to raise so much money for it.

Committee appointments

As a new MP, on March 2, 2020, Longhi was appointed to two parliamentary committees: the Environmental Audit Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee. The latter monitors progress on Brexit.

Trade

On May 20, 2020, Longhi participated in a debate on the post-Brexit Trade Bill:

The Trade Bill we are discussing today is a framework that allows us to continue to trade as a nation state with those countries who already have a trade agreement with the EU. It enables UK service providers to seek out business in Government procurement markets worth £1.3 trillion, and reshores from the EU those protections available under WTO rules to support British business against unfair trading activities under the new trade remedies authority.

Why is that important? It means that we will harpoon yet again the ill cited arguments that we will crash out and fall off a cliff edge through Brexit. It means that we can seek out new business, and it means that we can finally take effective action ourselves against rogue nations who do not respect international trading conventions. Let us remind ourselves of the EU’s impotence when China dumped its excess steel on our markets, and the jobs it cost us here in the UK.

It is an undisputed fact that open markets and free trade generate wealth and our new-found and hard-won ability to seek out new markets will grow our economy. Covid-19 has brought about a global tendency towards protectionism, which we know has the opposite effect. We must not be drawn into this trap at any cost, as we shall be poorer for it. However, what covid-19 has shown is that for all their rhetoric, the EU’s institutions fail to respond effectively, if at all, and its constituent members immediately behaved as a collection of nation states. They offered a shallow apology to the Italian people for leaving them to their own devices while protecting their own. I must ask, was that not entirely predictable? That begs the question of how, as a nation at this historic junction, we consider the strategic implications of a future crisis. Should we be more self-reliant in key areas such as energy, food and medicines? Many large corporates are now reshoring as they understand the total cost of outsourced activities, including problems with quality control, the cost of unreliable supply chains and the carbon footprint of products, just to name a few. That is why I was delighted to hear about our investment to produce 70 million masks in the UK and create around 450 jobs at the same time. It is about taking a risk-based approach and understanding the total cost-benefit arguments of decisions that we take in the key areas that affect our national resilience.

Globalisation is here to stay. As we harness the great opportunities presented to us by Brexit and FTAs, our biggest challenge is how we do so. The area that I represent in Dudley and the many areas that my new colleagues represent have not always benefited. Globalisation has seen benefits, but also a race to the bottom with a low-wage economy in traditional manufacturing and the loss of jobs in the sector. Buying a pair of boots for a few pounds less is not a huge benefit if there is not a job to go to.

Analysis shows that there are between 250,000 and 350,000 businesses that currently do not export but could. My plea is that we target those businesses, with a special focus on those in the Midlands, with determination, enthusiasm and strategic focus, and at real pace, so that we can add value and bring new jobs to these areas while we also minimise the devastating impact of covid-19 on local economies and people’s lives.

On June 24, 2021, Longhi participated in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership debate, led by Liz Truss, who was, at the time, the Secretary of State for International Trade:

Longhi: Does the Secretary of State agree that if British business is to invest it needs confidence, and that that confidence will come by restating our commitment to free trade by diversifying our trade offer, generating new jobs and bringing more stability to the jobs we already have?

Truss: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A key benefit of the CPTPP is increased resilience. It means that our exporters will not have all their eggs in one basket. They will have options about where they send their goods. It will also mean our importers are able to rely on strong relationships in countries which follow the rules and have good standards in areas such as the environment and worker protection.

He then intervened in Liam Fox’s speech on protecting free trade, which, in turn, helps consumers:

Does my right hon. Friend agree that consumers will therefore have cheaper access to white vans and St George’s flags, which particularly our self-employed make use of in the construction industry?

Fox did not want to go there:

I cannot think what my hon. Friend is alluding to, but it is certainly true that consumers will have access to far greater choice …

Labour’s John Spellar — one of their few good guys — attempted to intervene and finally succeeded:

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am very supportive of trade and trade agreements. Equally, I was rather surprised by his response to the hon. Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi). Should we not be encouraging people to buy white vans made in Luton, and trying to ensure that St George’s flags are made and sold in the United Kingdom?

Fox batted that intervention away in short order:

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right that we should ensure that as much is made in the United Kingdom as possible …

International aid

The temporary 0.2% reduction in international aid post-pandemic has been a long-running issue amongst Conservative MPs and arises again and again. Half the Conservative MPs, it seems, strongly disagree with the reduction while the other half support it, because it is only temporary.

On June 30, 2021, in the Opposition’s Official Development Assistance and the British Council debate, Longhi said that MPs who made a big deal about the reduction were virtue signalling:

Foreign aid spend has frequently been a way for politicians to compete for moral righteousness in the public eye. My Dudley residents care not for this type of posturing.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell)—he is no longer in the Chamber—who is a near neighbour of mine, referred in his closing remarks to his electorate, implying that they agree with his stance on foreign aid. I would make two points on that. First, my constituency is literally just down the road from his, and I can categorically assert that a significant majority of my residents do not agree with him. Secondly, I gently point out to him that, on average, two thirds of all people polled in this country very recently did not agree with him either. Just the other day, on GB News, he used the majority view argument to support assisted dying, so perhaps he might consider being consistent with his rationale, instead of imposing his moral virtues on the country’s majority view.

Virtue signaller Anthony Mangnall, a Conservative, intervened:

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend. It is fine if that is his argument, but surely he believes that it is right for this House to have a vote on the issue, because we are all representatives of our constituencies, and of the views of our constituents. Forget the polling and allow this place to have its say. Does he not agree with that sentiment?

Longhi replied:

I might refer my hon. Friend to votes on Brexit in previous years, when a significant number of elected Members did not represent their constituents and voted the opposite way to them.

Labour will always oppose what the Government do, even if they tripled foreign aid. Having only ever averaged a maximum spend under 0.4% of national income when it was in office, compared with the 0.7% that we achieved, Labour’s protestations are somewhat shallow, if not risible. People will see Labour for what it is: out of touch with working-class people and totally clueless about their priorities.

I am concerned about some of my colleagues. They are being so generous with other people’s money—a notable socialist behaviour, I might add. Perhaps they can explain to my Dudley North taxpayers why we should spend £15 billion overseas when my residents cannot find council houses and when we still have homeless people on our streets, some of them brave veterans.

Longhi went on, refusing to take further interventions:

I would like to make progress, please.

Covid has given rise to exceptional circumstances, and the Government were entirely right to reduce aid and focus on rebuilding our country. Charity begins at home. That said, I do not agree with reducing the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income; I would scrap the target altogether. Foreign aid should be and needs to be completely reformed. A fluctuating number each year that bears no real link with need, priorities or actual outcomes is no way to plan or act strategically. It is not how a household would budget, it is not how a business would budget, and it should not be how a Government budget. Which other Government Department do we fund as a percentage of national income?

Mangnall succeeded at last:

It is on that point—I can give the answer. We committed in our manifesto in 2019 to funding research and development at 2.7% of our GDP. We commit to NATO spending at 2% through the Ministry of Defence. The list goes on.

At that point, Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) said that, as many MPs were leaving the chamber, she would be lifting time limits on speeches.

Longhi concluded, refusing to take another intervention from Mangnall:

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I will respond by saying it is not the way we fund policing, education or health here at home. Surely a more sophisticated approach that is outcome-focused and delivers measurable change in very poor countries by employing some of our own local and UK-based companies is a far better approach than the arbitrary and unaccountable system that we continue to virtue-signal about.

I would ask two things of colleagues wanting to reinstate the 0.7%: let us focus efforts on achieving much better outcomes by reforming foreign aid, and, while we are at it, focus on challenging the EU and other wealthy countries that consistently fail to meet their own targets and do not measure up to what the UK is certainly doing

By any measure, the UK already does far more than most, both in cash terms and in areas not captured by our foreign aid spending. Certainly my constituents know that very well.

Yes!

Buying a house

On October 7, 2020, Longhi put forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill, a type of Private Members Bill, about reforming Conveyancing Standards.

I do not know what became of it when it was debated, but he made good points about the pitfalls of house buying:

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish minimum standards regarding searches and assessments of risk for solicitors and licensed conveyancers acting on behalf of purchasers of residential properties; and for connected purposes.

The main aim of this Bill is to help protect people who wish to buy a house—sometimes their first home—from being exposed to risks that currently are not sufficiently visible or understood at the point of purchase. The Bill does not propose radical changes to the conveyancing process; nor, indeed, does it propose changes to the development control system, although some may argue that that might be desirable to further de-risk the process for homebuyers.

I will set out two examples to illustrate the types of difficulties faced by homebuyers. Both are real cases of people who have been let down by a system that has not kept pace with an industry that has become increasingly cut-throat. The system does not offer enough consumer protections for people who are about to make possibly the single most important investment of their lives, while the transaction itself is mired in documents and legal complexities that are rarely fully understood.

My first example is of a developer who purchases land and applies for planning permission, which is granted subject to conditions. Those conditions are wide ranging and set out requirements of the developer in order for them to receive final planning certification at the end of the development. One such condition may be that soil sampling is undertaken to establish whether any contamination is present; another may be that properties must not be occupied until planning conditions have been fully satisfied.

That developer set up a limited company for the sole purpose of the development and started marketing the site almost immediately. Some properties were sold off-plan; some were sold when the buildings were largely complete. When the final plot was sold, the developer immediately liquidated the company. That means the legal entity that sold the properties no longer existed.

It became apparent immediately that a significant number of planning conditions had not been met: no soil sampling, no preventing of owners from occupying, and no top coating of road services or pavements to bring them up to council adoptable standards. Drainage was not connected properly, and the new homeowners had a huge list of unfinished works and complaints about poor standards of work.

At that point, the homeowners turned to the council for help, in the expectation that it would have the ability, as a local regulatory body, somehow to fix things. It transpired that any regulatory liabilities relating to the properties transferred to the property owners at point of sale, and that if the council chose to enforce breaches of planning, it would have to pursue the new homeowners.

It is important to note that the current system places no requirements on local planning authorities to pursue developers to evidence compliance with planning conditions. The expectation is that a developer will want final planning certification, but that is all it is: an expectation. What if a developer does not care about obtaining the certification? Their objective is to build, sell and maximise profit. So here we are; we have just purchased a property in good faith following the advice of the conveyancing solicitor—who, by the way, was recommended by the developer—and the property does not have planning permission. Certification costs could be extremely significant, and we have no recourse to the developer because they no longer exist as a legal entity.

My second example is probably more widespread than my first, and I suspect that similar examples may be present in several MPs’ casework folders. Imagine we are very keen to buy a property. At the point of purchase, our solicitor handling the conveyancing might highlight the fact that there is a contract for maintenance of green spaces on the estate—grass cutting, hedge trimming and so on—as well as that those areas do not belong to any of the properties and the cost is about £100 per year. Do we still want to buy the property? Of course we do. That is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, and if it means securing the property of our dreams, of course we will pay it.

What is not discussed with sufficient clarity at the point of conveyance, if at all, is that the small print of the maintenance contract will state that contract owners can increase the price as and when they wish, and there is virtually no recourse within the contract for poor workmanship or lack of clarity. The fee of £100 per year may soon become £500 per year, and the grass cutting may be once a year instead of once a month. These areas remain unadopted by local councils—something that I find a little too convenient. How would you feel, Mr Speaker, if you paid an even higher council tax for services you did not receive, compared with a neighbour around the corner who pays less and gets more?

Usually, when a service is not rendered, one may choose not to pay. That cannot happen here, because these contracts state that a charge will be placed against the property, so it cannot be sold without payment. Furthermore, homeowners cannot complain to anybody, because an unresponsive contractor is virtually unaccountable and has plenty of legal cover, while homeowners are usually bounced around from contractor to subcontractor to developer in a never-ending merry-go-round.

Those two scenarios are real. The same thing has happened in Dudley and to other people from the Black Country whom I have met. People find themselves financially exposed. The system is being gamed by unscrupulous developers and contractors, because it is not transparent enough to shine a light on the potential risks to people when they are buying a property. People might feel that the very fact that a solicitor is handling the conveyance means that they are sufficiently protected. They employ a solicitor not just to carry out due diligence for them, but to highlight any potential downsides. That is not happening with enough robustness, and that is why I propose the Bill.

Crime and Labour

In a Business of the House session on June 16, 2021, Longhi lamented that Labour MPs voted against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

I am sorry to say that it came as no surprise to me when Labour voted against tougher sentences for rapists and child rapists this week. My constituency of Dudley North has been waiting for a new police station in the centre of Dudley for many years, as was promised by the Labour police and crime commissioner. Will my right hon. Friend agree to explore this issue with me, and perhaps with the Home Secretary, and agree to a debate on the effectiveness of police and crime commissioners more generally?

Jacob Rees-Mogg, then Leader of the House, replied:

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The socialists, as always, are weak on crime and weak on the causes of crime, and they have shown their true colours in the recent refusal to support tougher sentences for violent criminals. Unfortunately, socialist police and crime commissioners have been failing their constituents. I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to hold his local PCC to account and at the highest level, because the Government are continuing to back the police and to support the public in fighting to bring down crime.

… We are taking the landmark Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through Parliament at the moment, which will tackle serious violence throughout the country. We have hired nearly 9,000 additional police officers and are well on track to meet our target of 20,000 new officers this Parliament. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) for the important issue that he raises.

Marco Longhi gets it, as it were.

I will conclude with more of his policy perspectives next week.

The voters of Dudley North should be pleased with him. He cares about them.

It is apposite to follow my posts about Lee Anderson with a series on his fellow Red Wall MP Marco Longhi.

Among other things, they have in common a dislike of Steve Bray, the noisy anti-Brexit protester who had his amplifying equipment taken by police this week.

Steve Bray

This is where I left off yesterday:

I’ll get to the debate in which Marco Longhi said those words.

First, however, Steve Bray reappeared in the area around Parliament on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, with a new boombox:

Guido Fawkes had the story and a video:

His post says (emphases in the original):

Just when you thought it was all over, Steve Bray’s back for an encore. With his boombox ripped from his hands yesterday by a swarm of Met officers, it looked like it was finally time to say bye, bye Bray-by. Not so much.

Undeterred, and as promised during a BBC interview yesterday afternoon, Bray is back on his island outside Parliament, having found a new boombox to blast his tunes at full volume as MPs walk past. He’s also picked up a gang of new supporters to chant along with him. Presumably they don’t have jobs to go to either. Chopper [The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope] even claims he’s seen pedestrians hand Bray some cash in solidarity. It’s not like Met officers have far to commute given New Scotland Yard’s just metres away…

On May 11, Marco Longhi mentioned Steve Bray, although not by name, in a parliamentary debate, Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice.

Guido covered the bit about Bray:

Guido wrote:

… Speaking in the Chamber yesterday afternoon alongside Bray’s arch nemesis Lee Anderson, Longhi said:

I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever… This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met really should deal with him.

Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle intervened to offer swapping offices with Longhi so that “there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either”…

Guido concluded by saying that, like Lloyd Russell-Moyle, he has no problem with Bray’s braying as it shows we tolerate free speech.

Personally, I disagree. After six years of his daily noise, the Met should put a stop to it.

Returning to the debate, which took place after the Queen’s Speech in May, Longhi discussed the people from his constituency, Dudley North, and their concerns, among them Brexit and re-establishing law and order (emphases mine):

I was going to confine my speech to the Public Order Bill, but I will follow up on a few comments that the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) made. The more I listen to him, the more I think he speaks a good deal of common sense. I would like him to know that I for one, and a number of my colleagues, agree with much if not everything of what he says, and we have a steely resolve to make sure that we are one United Kingdom. That is what we voted for when we voted for Brexit.

My daughters, for some unfathomable reason, sometimes describe me as a grumpy old man. I really do not know why. However, there are a few things that can make me a little bit miserable, and one thing that has really grated on me in recent years is the minority of protesters who have pretty much used guerrilla warfare to disrupt the everyday lives of the vast majority of our constituents—not just mine, but everybody’s.

The good people of Dudley North are ordinary folk, working hard to make a living, a living that is increasingly harder to make in the current climate. I cannot fathom how the privileged and entitled few think it is acceptable to stop our carers and nurses from being able to get to work to care for our sick and elderly, or to blockade a fire appliance from getting to a serious fire burning a local business to the ground—or, more tragically, perhaps preventing people inside the burning building from being saved. Of course, that applies to any blue light service, not just the fire service. That minority of criminals truly disgust me. They have no concept of the real world out there. They have no concept of the misery they bring to those less fortunate than themselves.

I hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and those on the Front Benches will join me in making working here more bearable for our staff, myself and my colleagues. I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever.

Lee Anderson intervened:

I know the character my hon. Friend alludes to, and I have witnessed some ferocious verbal attacks on my hon. Friend from that character, who patrols Whitehall like a public nuisance. May I suggest telling him that, if he is interested in changing things in this country, he should come to Dudley North and stand against my hon. Friend at the next general election?

Longhi replied:

In fact, that invitation has already been made. I am going to print off a set of nomination papers, but I wonder about the 10 people this person might need for the form to be valid.

My staff cannot hear distressed constituents on the phone through the awful racket he causes. All our staff who have offices in 1 Parliament Street suffer considerable stress and anxiety from the disruption he causes to their, and our, work. I doubt that staff in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the buildings opposite, would say anything different—[Interruption.] Is someone wanting to intervene? I do not know. I heard some noises. It is like a Hoover—an irritating thing in the background. I do not know what it is.

This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met Police really should deal with him. He is causing misery to hundreds of staff, he is intimidating many

Then Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is quite the leftie, intervened for a bit of to-ing and fro-ing:

Russell-Moyle: No, he’s not!

Longhi: I think someone wants to intervene, Mr Deputy Speaker. This person intimidates many who are passing by, going about our business and representing our constituents—

Russell-Moyle: No, he doesn’t!

Longhi: Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene?

Russell-Moyle: The hon. Member clearly does not know how Parliament works, but we often make sounds across the Chamber when we disagree with someone, and I disagree with him. I am happy to swap offices: I will take his office and he can have my office. Then there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either. Win-win!

Longhi: I am actually very comfortable for the hon. Member to come to Dudley North and make those very arguments, because he would be out of office completely. Please do come and make those very arguments. I am not going to allow this kind of behaviour from someone outside, who is a public nuisance, to force us to have to make changes for him.

Our police, whether in Dudley, the Met or elsewhere, need the tools to better manage and tackle the dangerous and highly disruptive tactics used by a small minority of selfish protesters to wreak havoc on people going about their daily lives. Our police already have enough to be doing without the unnecessary burden of a privileged few who seek to rinse taxpayers’ money.

It will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support the Public Order Bill. If that disruptive minority want to glue themselves to anything, maybe the Bill should make it easier for them to have their backsides glued to a tiny cell at Her Majesty’s pleasure. They would be most welcome.

Kit Malthouse MP, the minister for Crime and Policing, concluded the debate. Malthouse, incidentally, worked for Boris Johnson in a similar position when the latter was Mayor of London:

… We have had a variety of contributions this afternoon, falling broadly into three categories. First, there were the constructive contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) talked about antisocial behaviour in his constituency, a theme we heard from several hon. Members. The three graces—my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi)—expressed strong support for the Public Order Bill. The general theme was expressed pithily by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough:

“We want criminals to be scared of the law. We do not want the law-abiding majority to be scared of criminals”—

a sentiment with which the Government heartily agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) made his usual vigorous and wide-ranging contribution, illustrating neatly why his part of the world is becoming more of a Conservative stronghold with every month that passes

I wrote about Jonathan Gullis in April.

Malthouse ended with this. I do hope he is correct when he says:

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out earlier in this debate, the first job of any Government is to keep their people safe, which is why we are delivering ambitious reforms to do just that by cutting crime, delivering swifter justice and making our streets safer. We are backing the ever-growing numbers of police with the tools and support they need, making sentences tougher for violent and sexual crimes, strengthening victims’ rights and restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. We will ensure that we strike the right balance in our human rights framework so that it meets the needs of the public and commands their confidence, strengthens our traditions of liberty, particularly the right to free speech, adds a healthy dose of common sense and curtails abuses of our justice system. I commend the Government’s programme on crime and justice to the House.

In the beginning

Marco Longhi was born in the Midlands town of Walsall, Staffordshire, on April 22, 1967, to an Englishwoman and an Italian airline worker. He grew up in Rome.

He took after both parents in his personal choices.

Following his father’s interest in airlines, he trained as a pilot. Later, following the example from his mother’s family, he entered politics.

In between, he studied at Manchester University and worked in the oil and gas industry. Later on, he became interested in real estate and was the director of the lettings (rental) firm Justmove. He also owns ten houses in Walsall.

His grandfather Wilfred Clarke was mayor of Walsall in 1978. Longhi became a Conservative councillor for the town in 1999 and served two terms as its mayor, in 2017 and 2018.

Dudley North

Longhi ran successfully for election to Parliament in 2019, after the much-admired Labour MP, subsequently Independent, Ian Austin, stood down for Dudley North.

The constituency of Dudley North was created in 1997. Labour’s Ross Cranston served as its MP between 1997 and 2005. Afterwards, Ian Austin succeeded him until 2019. Austin became an Independent in February 2019. He resigned from Labour because he was troubled by its anti-Semitism, which prevailed in some factions of the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Austin’s adoptive father Fred was a Czech Jew who was adopted by an English family, hence the surname change from Stiller to Austin. Fred Austin was the headmaster of The Dudley School from its foundation in 1975 to his retirement in 1985.

In December 2019, Marco Longhi handily defeated Labour’s appropriately named Melanie Dudley with a majority of 11,533, a swing of 15.8 per cent.

Maiden speech

Longhi gave his maiden speech to the Commons on February 26, 2020, during the debate on the Environment Bill.

Although coronavirus was seeping into the news narrative, getting on with Brexit was still the main topic of discussion among Conservative MPs. The debates were marvellous, imbued with optimism.

Everyone was also happy with the relatively new Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor John Bercow who did so much to try and thwart Brexit.

Longhi’s speech tells us about Dudley and his hopes for the historic town:

Let me start by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to present my maiden speech today, and to thank your staff—and, indeed, all staff on the estate—for keeping us safe and looking after us so well and with such professionalism. I should like you to convey my more profound thanks, if that is possible, to Mr Speaker for the way in which he has signalled that he will carry out his office as Speaker of the House, in complete contrast to his predecessor. The conventions and integrity that he is restoring in such an unassuming way are having a much greater impact in restoring faith in our democracy than any commentators may be giving him credit for, which is why I want to do so today.

It is the convention to comment on one’s predecessor in a maiden speech. I shall do so, but not for that reason: I will because I want to. I am certain than many in this place will want to recognise Ian Austin for his integrity, and for the brave way in which he decided to stand up against antisemitism. There is not a person in my constituency to whom I have spoken who does not speak well of Ian, even when they disagreed with his politics. So I want to thank him for his efforts as a local MP, and for the example that he has set for many of us, on both sides of the House, in standing up to prejudice and hatred. I suspect that some of my colleagues on this side of the House—myself included—may wish to thank him for other reasons too.

I say with a degree of both pride and humility that I am the first ever Conservative Member of Parliament for Dudley North, the first ever Member called Marco, and the Member holding a larger majority than any of my predecessors in this seat. For that, I thank the people of Dudley, who, like the people in the rest of the country, decided to tell the House—yet again, at the umpteenth time of asking—what they wanted us to do.

The Dudley North constituency is made up of the town of Sedgley, the suburban areas of Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Gornal Wood, Woodsetton, and other conurbations around Dudley town itself. It has several attractions of national significance, including the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Castle and Dudley Zoo.

Dudley has been a market town since the 13th century, and its fortunes over the centuries have ebbed and flowed with the economic cycles of the heavy industry that its coal-rich mines supported. This also means that it has suffered much since the decline of the traditional industries, which is why a focus on skills and future jobs is crucial if the economic prosperity of the area and the wellbeing of Dudley people are to be secured for the coming decades.

Dudley is also credited with being the birthplace of the industrial revolution, with the advent of smelting iron ore using coal instead of charcoal, which is manufactured by burning trees and therefore much rarer and more costly to obtain. Abraham Darby introduced this revolutionary method, which meant that iron and steel could be made in much larger quantities and more efficiently and cheaply. He effectively kick-started the industrial revolution, so Dudley’s heritage and legacy are second to none—notwithstanding what other people in this House might say! However, I will say that competing with Magna Carta and perhaps alienating a doctor might not be my smartest move. Abraham Darby was born in Woodsetton in 1678 and is reported to have lived at Wren’s Nest, which is now a site of special scientific interest—I had to practise that—and, since 1956, one of only two national nature reserves assigned on geology alone because of the variety and abundance of fossils found on the site.

However, although the new industrial revolution brought wealth, it also resulted in the area being named the most unhealthy place in the country in the mid-19th century, because of the dreadful working and living conditions. That led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewerage systems. Dudley had the highest mortality rate in the country. In the 21st century we are faced with the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by a range of new advancements in the digital and biological worlds, but with a different impact on human wellbeing.

Improving health and wellbeing and seeking to tackle mental ill health are some of the areas on which I wish to focus during my time in this House, for the benefit of everyone at home and in their workplaces. If we tackle the issue of poor mental health at its core and in its infancy, we can prevent crisis moments and the devastating consequences that they can have. That it is also why having an environment that we can all enjoy, which supports us in our own wellbeing and that we can leave as a positive legacy to our children and grandchildren, is so important. Mother Nature has been talking to us for some time, and it is time we did more than simply listen. It is time to take action as well, which is why the Bill is so welcome.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you ever come to Dudley, the capital of the Black Country, you will be warmly welcomed, because that is the nature of Dudley people. You will also feel a sense of expectation—a feeling that change is about to happen, a feeling of optimism—and this is another reason why I am so privileged to represent the town and its people. In the near future, we will be seeing the demolition of the infamous Cavendish House in the town centre to make way for many new homes, the metro extension and I hope—subject to consent—a very light rail system.

Like many high streets around the country, Dudley’s has suffered much. Nobody has a silver bullet to fix that, but increasing footfall by attracting more people feels like part of the solution. If attracting more people into the town centre is part of the solution, and if the focus on skills for future jobs is key, I would like to see our plans for a university campus on the edge of Dudley town centre finally being delivered. I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees with me on that. These game-changing plans were drawn up before my arrival, and some have been spoken about for many years. Now is the time to turn words into action and to deliver for Dudley. My pledge to all Dudley people is that I will fight every step of the way to make things happen and bring about the change that they want. It is Dudley’s turn now.

On May 12, 2021, he rightly objected to lefties trolling him over Brexit in the Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work debate, which followed that year’s Queen’s Speech:

“Your name isn’t English, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” That is a recent Facebook comment from an articulate but clearly limited left-wing activist, so I took some pleasure in replying in Italian “Che in realtà sono nato da un minatore di carbone del black country”—that I was in fact born to a Black Country coalminer.

More condescending left-wingers recently said this:

“You’d think Marco would understand why Brexit is bad. He’s lived in Italy and EVEN his Dad is Italian. Why is he such a strong Brexiteer? He must be stupid.”

Well, brownie points for working out that my dad is Italian. I did explain at length why Brexit is vital, but it became clear to me that there was a limit to their thinking, too—I mean Marco, Italian, therefore remainer, otherwise stupid is a bit of a “micro-aggression”, and is rather limited thinking isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Here is my suggestion for the Labour party: set up an internal limited-thinking focus group to eradicate it from among their ranks, because how can they represent people who are clearly not limited? They may want to start in Amber Valley where the Labour leader blamed voters for their election results; it might prove more useful than rearranging the deckchairs on their Front Bench.

So, yes, my name is Marco, and, yes, my father is Italian, but here I am. How did I get here? Two words: opportunità e lavoro—opportunity and graft. My grandfather’s story is one of rags to riches and my parents are examples of blue-collar workers who for years lived hand to mouth. They bent over backwards to give me opportunities, and I put in the work.

Opportunity and work are two pillars of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech. People out there do not want handouts; they want a hand getting back on their feet. More than anything, they want opportunities to do well. The lifetime skills guarantee is a massive investment in education and apprenticeships, readying people for the jobs coming their way. We may remember the Prime Minister—or “our Boris” as they say back home—visiting Dudley and going to the site of our new Institute of Technology, where he delivered his “jobs, jobs, jobs” vision. The pandemic has shown that fish can be necessary, but fishing rods are what people really need, and that institute will provide the rods.

The Queen’s Speech contained a vast array of steps that will take us out of the clutches of the pandemic, freeing us to be even stronger than when we entered it. The commitment to our NHS and continuing with our investment in the vaccination programme and in private sector life sciences are huge bonuses that this country will benefit from.

The roaring ’20s are upon us. Dio salvi la Regina—God save the Queen.

I hope he is right about the roaring ’20s being upon us.

One year on, and it’s hard to see. However, that is no fault of Marco Longhi’s.

I will have more on this gently witty and highly incisive Red Wall MP next week.

Finally, after six years, the Metropolitan Police took away noise-enhancing equipment from Steve Bray, the well known anti-Brexit protester.

Earlier this month, I wrote about his confrontations with Conservative MP Lee Anderson.

Metro posted the following Twitter thread on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

I find it incredulous that police had to wait for the new Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act in order to do anything. Surely, his daily, disruptive noise was already a breach of the peace, an ancient offence:

Naturally, those who oppose Brexit and Conservatives believe that the Met’s reaction was overkill.

However, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom supported the move:

She makes an excellent point about ‘fulfilling the democratic decision of the UK to leave the EU’, the largest plebiscite in British history.

Leadsom received bouquets and brickbats in equal measure for using the words ‘violent protest’:

I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to work day in and day out with Bray’s braying through a loudhailer:

The area around Parliament also has permanent residents, such as the Speakers of the House, Commons and Lords:

Guido Fawkes has another video of the police with Bray:

Guido’s post has a photo of the Territorial Support Group who confiscated Bray’s boombox (emphases his):

20 or so Met police officers have now swarmed Steve Bray to confiscate his loudspeaker and threaten his arrest. This is all a result of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which comes into force today. Here’s what Section 73 of the Act says regarding noisy protests:

Section 73 amends section 12(1) of the 1986 Act allowing a senior police officer additionally to impose conditions on a public procession where they reasonably believed the noise generated by that procession may result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation in the vicinity, or have a significant, relevant impact on people in the vicinity.

They even threw his boom box into the back of a police van…

Hat-tip: Charlotte Lynch and Ellie Varley

Another Conservative MP who will be breathing a sigh of relief at the confiscation of Bray’s equipment will be Marco Longhi, who represents Dudley North in the Midlands:

I’ll have more on Longhi — and Bray — tomorrow in my next Red Wall MP profile.

Following on from yesterday’s UK news in brief, the fallout continued into the weekend.

The Opposition

Some viewers of parliamentary proceedings thought that last Wednesday’s PMQs was tense.

Guido Fawkes said that Boris looked ‘rattled’ as Keir Starmer asked Boris some difficult questions:

Boris came across rather rattled at PMQs today as a calm Keir Starmer attacked the PM on a number of topics, including why Allegra Stratton resigned, Rwanda and his reported comments about the BBC during last night’s 1922 meeting.

When questioned by Labour’s Keir Starmer, at one point, Boris said:

He must be out of his tiny mind!

Guido has the video:

The day before, in responding to Boris’s second apology for the fine — for pedants, fixed penalty notice — for a Downing Street gathering, Starmer took the opportunity to mention a constituent of Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, who thought there should be a bar in Downing Street (see yesterday’s post).

Guido Fawkes has the story.

This is what Starmer said (emphases mine throughout, except for Guido’s in red):

This morning I spoke to John Robinson, a constituent of the hon. Member for Lichfield, and I want to tell the House his story.

When his wife died of covid, John and his family obeyed the Prime Minister’s rules. He did not see her in hospital; he did not hold her hand as she died. Their daughters and grandchildren drove 100 miles up the motorway, clutching a letter from the funeral director in case they were questioned by the police. They did not have a service in church, and John’s son-in-law stayed away because he would have been the forbidden seventh mourner. Does the Prime Minister not realise that John would have given the world to hold his dying wife’s hand, even if it was just for nine minutes? But he did not, because he followed the Prime Minister’s rules—rules that we now know the Prime Minister blithely, repeatedly and deliberately ignored. After months of insulting excuses, today’s half-hearted apology will never be enough for John Robinson. If the Prime Minister had any respect for John, and the millions like him who sacrificed everything to follow the rules, he would resign. But he will not, because he does not respect John, and he does not respect the sacrifice of the British public. He is a man without shame.

When I heard that, I couldn’t imagine what Starmer was going to say about Fabricant. Fortunately, he said nothing about the MP. Starmer used the constituent’s story to make a point about Boris’s breaking the rules during coronavirus restrictions.

However, it is not the done thing to interfere in or visit someone else’s constituency without letting the relevant MP know.

Guido discovered that John Robinson had his unfortunate lockdown experience published in The Guardian‘s letters page on April 14. His letter reads much the way Starmer presented it to the Commons, although it ended with this:

Johnson flouted his own laws and rules. He partied his way through them. Am I angry? Anger doesn’t even touch the sides of how I feel about this pathetic excuse for a man, and I suspect that the majority of us little people share my views, will never forget and will never forgive.

Even so, it seems to me that Starmer had some nerve to contact him.

Fabricant appeared on GB News on Wednesday, April 20. He said:

The saddest thing of all, I think, is the way Keir Starmer and other politicians have chosen to weaponise the personal tragedies endured by people like John Robinson and you know I would have thought, actually, that was pretty beneath them.

Me, too.

Imagine if a Conservative MP had done that. Labour would have banged on about it for weeks, if not months.

Migration and the Rwanda policy

The Archbishop of Canterbury used his Easter 2022 sermon to rail against the Home Office’s plan to transfer illegal immigrants, especially those crossing the English Channel from France, to Rwanda for processing.

The Archbishop may also take issue with Denmark, which is pursuing the same policy. We pipped them to the post, but, apparently, Rwanda can capably deal with any number of migrants and for more than one country:

Guido reminded readers that the EU were also considering Rwanda as far back as 2019:

An awkward moment this morning for all the lefty hacks and opposition MPs who’ve turned their noses at the government’s illegal migrant plans, as Denmark has announced it is also now outlining plans to send adult asylum seekers to Rwanda. The Archbishop of Canterbury will need to have a lie-down…

In a statement released this morning, Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye confirmed the country has entered discussions with the Rwandan government:

Our dialogue with the Rwandan government includes a mechanism for the transfer of asylum seekers… [the deal will] ensure a more dignified approach than the criminal network of human traffickers that characterises migration across the Mediterranean today …

In 2019 then-European Commissioner Neven Mimica also announced a similar plan for the EU:

While in #Rwanda, happy to announce a 10M€ project to support efforts of the Government to receive and provide protection to about 1500 #refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in #Libya.

When the PM announced the Rwanda policy he predicted many other countries will soon follow suit – this is much sooner than expected though…

Our deal with Rwanda isn’t due to start for another few weeks, but it’s already had an effect on the Channel-crossers, as some Red Wall MPs have noticed:

Correct, but it’s working before it’s even started.

Bassetlaw’s MP tweeted:

The Daily Mail article about migrant men in France is a must-read:

Standing beside a row of shabby, small shelters amid a hum from massive industrial units and passing lorries, Hamid Karimi, 34, sums it up: ‘I’m not going to the UK if afterwards I’m sent to Rwanda. I’m staying here. I’m not going to Rwanda.’

Others in the group nod in agreement. Referring to the Prime Minister, one jokes: ‘Johnson go to Rwanda!’

Boris Johnson has said the scheme drawn up by Home Secretary Priti Patel will serve as a ‘very considerable deterrent’ – and that appears to be the case here.

Announcing the Rwanda scheme on April 14, the PM said tens of thousands of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK by ‘irregular routes’, such as small boats or hiding in lorries, will be sent 4,000 miles to the African nation.

Arrivals will be processed and screened in the UK, with those deemed suitable flown to Rwanda on planes chartered by the Government

They will be then given accommodation and the opportunity to apply for asylum there – but cannot return to the UK. The change in tack from Hamid and his fellow Iranians is one adopted by many migrants in northern France since the announcement.

A few miles away, near another camp in Calais, a group of mostly Sudanese men told of their fear of being beaten or even killed if they are sent to Rwanda.

‘We came from Africa – we don’t want to go back,’ said Mohammed Noor, 34. ‘Nobody wants to go to Rwanda. If I go, I will finish my life. In Rwanda I won’t get a good life. I have come here for Europe and for the UK.’

… The Government wants the first flights to leave next month. Channel crossings have continued in their hundreds since the announcement, but early indications show that numbers are in decline. On April 14, 562 crossed in small boats. On Tuesday, the figure was 263.

It is too early to say if the apparent decline is a result of the plan, but ministers will certainly hope so. They say the policy is intended to ‘take back control of illegal immigration’ and undermine people traffickers who profit from it. 

The decline continues:

Yes, it is possible that the weather — wind — could have been a factor, but the Mail‘s article supports the premise that the deterrent is working.

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel has run into trouble with civil servants — ‘mandarins’ — assigned to her department. They do not want to implement the Rwanda plan:

Guido has an exclusive on the ‘rebellion’, complete with screenshots of anonymous tweets from upset civil servants:

Home Office civil servants used an officially organised online consultation this afternoon to discuss the recently-announced Rwanda policy, asking how to potentially block the move, comparing themselves to Nazis “only obeying orders”, proposed going on strike and questioned how to deal with their mental health in light of the policy. It shows conclusive evidence of the scale of left-wing opposition facing Patel and the government from within the civil service. It follows news from the weekend that Patel had to issue a ministerial direction to force the policy through …

This is the scale of opposition Priti Patel is facing at the moment from the enemies within, despite her and her fellow ministers being the only people in the department with democratic mandates. While Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Clarke are publicly promising to cull the number of civil servants, Guido can see a very obvious place the start…

On April 21, The Guardian reported that Matthew Rycroft, permanent secretary to the Home Office, attempted to reassure civil servants that they will not be breaking international law or be guilty of racism if they send migrants with unsuccessful refugee status claims to Rwanda:

Amid growing anger from the department’s workforce, Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary, faced questions at an online staff meeting asking if the home secretary’s policy of giving people a one-way ticket to Kigali was racist, while others demanded to know if the new policy was within international law.

Rycroft told staff they had to implement ministers’ decisions, and reminded them of the civil service’s neutral role, sources said.

The scheduled online meeting was held the day after it emerged that Home Office staff had threatened to strike and had drawn comparisons to working for the Third Reich over Patel’s plan.

One source said Rycroft was “bullish” about the government’s claim that the nationality and borders bill would not have to be passed into law before the policy could be implemented.

The article says that Rycroft did not sign off the plan initially, hence, as Guido wrote, Patel’s ministerial direction to do so:

It emerged on Sunday that Rycroft had refused to sign off Patel’s plans, claiming that he could not be sure it would provide value for money to the taxpayer. However, sources said he was “fully supportive” of the policy in the online meeting while flanked by other officials. He criticised leaks of the questions posed by staff, saying it was a breach of the civil service code.

This is the principal sentence from the ministerial direction:

I am therefore formally directing you as Accounting Officer to take forward this scheme with immediate effect, managing the identified risks as best you can.

Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, tweeted his empathy for the Home Secretary:

On Monday, April 26, during Home Office questions in Parliament, Marco Longhi, Conservative (and Red Wall) MP representing Dudley North, asked for the Rwanda plan to proceed. Tom Pursglove MP assured him that it would.

The human traffickers must be stopped. By the way, Labour have no alternative plan. They just don’t like this one:

There is another wrinkle to this saga. Guido reports that the Home Office is fending off criticism that some journalists were not allowed to be part of the press corps on the Government’s recent trip to Rwanda:

Guido’s post says, in part:

Guardian, Mirror and Financial Times hacks are complaining in Press Gazette that they were “blocked” from attending Priti’s Rwanda trip this month, with the Guardian going as far as to accuse the Home Office of trying to “avoid public scrutiny“ …

Strangely, however, Guardian hacks were actually invited on the trip… their reporter just happened to fall ill right before leaving.

The Guardian put forward a substitute journalist, but the Home Office declined the offer.

Ultimately, only so many reporters can go:

Guido’s departmental co-conspirator says the whole row is “silly“, as they can’t offer tickets to everyone, everywhere, at all times. They also point out how both the BBC and PA were on-hand throughout the entire trip – so those that couldn’t attend could get straight wire copy. In fact, even the picture used in the Press Gazette report came from PA…

It’s ‘get Boris’ time

It is becoming painfully obvious for those who voted Conservative in 2019 that the police are not applying the coronavirus rules equally.

As I have said before, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the only government leader in the UK to receive a fixed penalty notice for his birthday ‘party’ — if you can call a 10-minute gathering of staff and a closed Tupperware container of cake a party.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also received a fixed penalty notice for being at the same gathering.

Meanwhile, no one in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland has received anything more than a polite reminder from the police.

So, let’s look at Labour.

In May 2021, we had a local election in England along with regional elections in Wales and Scotland. We will be having local elections this May as well, including a regional election in Northern Ireland.

Going back to last year, there were coronavirus-specific campaign requirements and restrictions. Pictured is Labour leader Keir Starmer at the Labour offices in Durham at the end of April 2021:

On May 1, 2021, The Sun reported on Starmer’s visit:

LABOUR have dismissed an election ‘booze row’ after Sir Keir Starmer enjoyed a beer after a day on the campaign trail.

He was seen mixing with party workers in a constituency office in Durham on Friday night …

Tory co-chair Amanda Milling said: “Keir Starmer has continually and rightly called for people to follow the rules designed to keep us safe, but it’s now in question whether he is following them himself.

“People will rightly be asking questions about this.”

But a Labour source tonight said: “This is pathetic. The Tories’ clearly haven’t read their own rules.”

The local police concluded that there was nothing to investigate. Last weekend, some people wondered whether Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner was present at the gathering:

Richard Holden, the Red Wall MP who represents Durham North, wrote to the Chief Constable of the Durham Constabulary to ask whether the coronavirus restrictions during the campaign had been followed in this particular instance:

Last Sunday morning, Starmer told the BBC’s Sophie Raworth that he had nothing more to add about the gathering.

On Monday, April 25, Guido contacted the press officer for Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen. The response he received did not put the matter to rest in his opinion:

Following Holden’s letter, multiple social media users began questioning whether Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen – a longstanding Starmer supporter – was at the event, and whether that could have played a role in the police force’s decision to find in the Labour leader’s favour. Following the rumours, Guido contacted her press office…

The Office of the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner has been informed that neither Joy Allen, the then candidate for Durham PCC, or Nigel Bryson, attended the event involving Kier [sic] Starmer during his visit to Durham at the last local election.

Leaving aside the phrase “has been informed” rather than a first-person denial, Guido’s intrigued by the formal implication this is being considered a local election event, rather than a business meeting. As the rules stated at the time, campaigners could only go indoors “to meet the committee room organiser in order to collect election literature or drop off telling slips…”

It is against the law to meet socially indoors with anyone not in your household or support bubble.

Did Starmer’s own Police and Crime Commissioner just accidentally dob him in?

Nothing more will happen. Apart from Richard Holden’s constituency, Durham is Labour, through and through.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer is deeply disappointed that London’s Metropolitan Police will not issue further fixed penalty notices until after local elections in early May:

What does the average Briton think about what has been dubbed ‘partygate’? A co-presenter of GB News’s The Political Correction said on Sunday that people were tired of hearing about it:

If we’re fed up with it, imagine the confusion in Ukraine where, believe it or not, a Times reporter asked a woman there what she thought about Boris’s birthday party plight.

On Monday, April 25, Guido reported:

From today’s Times:

The details of Carrie Johnson’s birthday cake “ambush” were explained to them slowly, and when they understood the full extent of the scandal, they said they did not much care.

“Niet. niet.” Raisa said. “I don’t know about this birthday party. That seems to be normal human behaviour. But he was the first man who stood with us and helped us in our struggle. He is the best, I tell you, the best, the best, the best.”

Conclusion

Opposition MPs have been railing against Boris since he became Prime Minister in 2019, generally attaching some superlative such as ‘worst’ to their opinions.

Veteran reporter and broadcaster Colin Brazier, who presents an excellent show on GB News, suggests that we could always have had a worse leader. What about Oliver Cromwell, who was born on April 25, 1599?

Local elections take place on Thursday, May 5. We’ll see what the fallout looks like then.

The Conservative Party Conference took place in Manchester from Sunday, October 3 through Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was the first one since 2019, which was two months before their victory in the December 12 election that year.

UK in crisis

This year’s conference took place during the ongoing petrol supply problems and shock record-breaking hikes in gas futures on Tuesday and Wednesday:

On top of that, on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the UK’s petroleum regulator rejected Shell’s plans to redevelop the Jackdaw gasfield in the North Sea (emphases in purple mine):

“We’re disappointed by the decision and are considering the implications,” a Shell spokesperson said.

It was unclear on what grounds the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) refused to approve the environmental statement for the field’s development.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under whose umbrella OPRED operates, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Maddening.

The supply chain crisis for food continues. On Wednesday, The Times reported The National Pig Association warned retailers that 120,000 pigs would have to be slaughtered because of a lack of butchers. Some pig farmers are closing down altogether.

Some supermarkets are also suffering from empty shelves. Tesco, however, is bucking the trend. The Times reported that the supermarket chain is:

often highest up the pecking order when it comes to suppliers committing to make the business a priority …

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

The Conservatives riffed on this in a Bake Off-style event. Pictured with Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Home Secretary Priti Patel:

Having listened to some of the speeches and read excerpts from others, they were all light in content. Most of them were pep rally or visionary statements rather than what plans Cabinet ministers have for the nation.

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

Never at a Tory Conference has so little been said, by so many, to so few.

Sunday, October 3

As the conference opened, rumours circulated about three unnamed Labour MPs thinking of crossing the aisle to the Conservatives, as the Mail on Sunday reported:

Guido Fawkes had more on the story (emphases in red Guido’s):

… this is due to disillusionment with Starmer’s leadership, with the MPs already having opened up “lines of communication” with Tory whips. In related news, a senior Labour MP was spotted by a co-conspirator chatting with two Mail on Sunday hacks and three senior Tory advisors at a conference bar last night…

The day’s big event, according to The Spectator, was the drinks party that the 1922 Committee of backbenchers held, sponsored by ConservativeHome. Interestingly, a long-time Labour MP for north-west London — Barry Gardiner — was in attendance:

… the main focus of the night was the 1922 drinks with ConservativeHome in a room stuffed full of parliamentary talent and, for some reason, Barry Gardiner.

Strangely, Boris did not appear, leaving a gap which Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ably filled (video):

While Johnson was not scheduled to make an appearance here, Prime Ministers have traditionally done so in the past to pay tribute to their colleagues. His ‘disappointing’ absence – in the words of one disgruntled backbencher – left a vacuum for Sunak to fill, in a room full of MPs who will presumably one day decide who Johnson’s successor should be.

The Chancellor leapt to the stage to tell fellow Tories about what he was most looking forward too at conference: Michael Gove dancing, the PM running in a full suit (not just a shirt) and ‘machine like message discipline from every single one of you – and that means you too Cabinet.’ He added that ‘I’ve got your back’ to anxious MPs in the room and that ‘for the record I too am a low tax conservative’ – welcome words for those party donors who Mr S[teerpike, columnist] understands attended a ‘tense’ meeting earlier at the Midland, amid considerable unease at the recent NI [National Insurance] hike.

In such circumstances, perhaps it’s understandable that Boris would stay away.

According to The Telegraph, senior Conservatives have warned Boris not to dream up any more future tax hikes:

Earlier that day, Boris gesticulated wildly at the BBC’s Andrew Marr, saying, ‘You have no fiercer opponent to tax rises than me’. This probably means more tax rises are on the way:

The Spectator has more on the interview.

On tax hikes, Sir Desmond Swayne MP told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer the raw truth. He added that lower taxes will enable greater economic growth:

Another event that Boris avoided was the one by the Tory Reform Group (TRG), which wants the Conservatives to move closer to the centre politically. They are Remainers. The Spectator reported:

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

Green, a mainstay of various causes on the left-ish wing of the party over the past two decades, told activists that it was their task to ‘make sure that the voice of moderate conservatism, centre-right conservatism is as strong as possible within the party’ – a job ‘never more important than today because there are times when I slightly feel that it is only people like us that stop this party drifting back to being seen as the nasty party.’ A tacit rejoinder to Priti Patel perhaps?

But then it was time for the speaker and the great white hope of Tory moderation. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, took to the stage to ecstatic applause and, like Green, was under no illusions about the awesome responsibility he and his One Nation caucus members share – to keep the Conservative party effectively sane …

There was also ample time for several potshots at the current Tory leader Boris Johnson, with whom Tugendhat is said to enjoy a wary relationship.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, tipped to be a future Party leader, also made the rounds that day (video):

The fringes were packed last night as Tory ministers did the rounds. Liz Truss, the darling of the free market think tanks, appeared at the Think Tent equipped with a magnificent blow dry and an applause-winning speech which castigated cancel culture as ‘fundamentally wrong.’ That and other jibes at identity politics in her conference address lead the Daily Mail this morning to ask whether she is in fact the new Mrs Thatcher.

Several reporters wrote about her new hairdo, which, to me, didn’t look much different from the old one.

Returning to the mysterious Labour people who might want to change parties, here’s Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP, heaping praise on Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Boris’s levelling up programme. Burnham spoke to Trevor Phillips on Sky News that morning. Hmm:

Neither Andy Burnham nor Barry Gardiner is a Conservative. Crossing the aisle for ideals they don’t believe in seems a rather rash way of getting their own back at Keir Starmer.

Boris made four appearances at conference that day, including one for the Scottish Conservatives. Guido captured his wit along with audio:

The PM warned of a “crackpot coalition” between the SNP and Labour – “the only way they could” kick the Tories out.

He described the Labour conference as “a total rabble”, saying it had the air to him of “a seriously rattled bus conductor” facing an “insurrection on the top deck of the bus”, or the “captain of a Mediterranean cruise ship facing insurrection by a bunch of Somali pirates”.

Douglas Ross MP/MSP also addressed Scottish Conservatives. As party leader in Scotland, he wants to position the party as that of the nation’s working class. It’s a good move, as The Spectator reported:

Like all good fables, Douglas Ross’s speech at Tory conference had a beginning, middle and end. Act One detailed the many iniquities of the SNP, from their dysfunctional vaccine passport scheme to their Hate Crime Act, and most of all their agitation for Scotland to break away from the UK. Act Two took the sword to Labour, bemoaned its abandonment of working-class voters and its internal divisions over the constitution. Theirs was not the party to take on the SNP. Only one party was and it was the subject of Act Three, in which Ross deepened a theme begun under Ruth Davidson’s leadership: the Scottish Conservatives as the party of the Scottish working-class.

He hit all the familiar notes about the SNP’s failings in government, the ones that never seem to stick longer than two or three news cycles and are invariably forgotten about by the next election. He also hinted at an interesting theme that, if teased out carefully, could come into greater play. It is the perception, no longer wholly limited to unionists, that Nicola Sturgeon is a bit… off. Out of touch. Superior. Maybe even a bit of a snob.

In other news, last week, Labour’s Angela Rayner called Conservatives ‘Tory scum’. Feisty Dehenna Davison MP, representing Bishop Auckland as the constituency’s first Conservative, had ‘Tory Scum’ badges made.

This harks back to 1948, when Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan said the Conservatives were ‘lower than vermin’. Following that, the Conservatives formed the Vermin Club. Club member Margaret Roberts — who would become Margaret Thatcher — also had ‘Tory Vermin’ badges made, as Nigel Farage told Dehenna Davison on GB News:

Party chairman Oliver Dowden pledged that the Conservatives would do away with ugly new housing developments by strengthening planning laws.

He also assured the public that they would have turkeys for Christmas, referring to ongoing supply chain problems.

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

Liz Truss is at the top. Other MPs pictured are (left to right) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi:

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

The turn round in her fortunes from last year when she was being tipped to be sacked from the Cabinet is quite something. Liz is one of the increasingly rare consistently free market voices around the Cabinet table…

Rishi Sunak is down by some 10 points and moves from second to fifth place. Rishi’s tax hikes have clearly taken the gloss off him with the true blue believers. 

Grant Shapps [Transport] and Priti Patel are bumping along the bottom in barely positive approval territory. Shapps has been doing fairly well with the incredibly difficult transport brief. Patel is suffering because she has failed to do the seemingly impossible – stop the cross channel migrants. Tory activists are unforgiving, they don’t want excuses, they want results.

It was the turn of Rishi Sunak to address the party faithful.

A rise in council tax would not go down well. Meanwhile, protesters pelted Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP with a traffic cone:

Some at conference are disappointed with Sunak, whose budget comes up in a few weeks’ time. Steve Baker MP is pictured in the second tweet:

Boris was out and about in Greater Manchester. He spoke to an interviewer about policing and said that the Government needs to change its culture, which has become misogynistic, particularly in light of the Sarah Everard murder earlier this year, committed by … a policeman, who recently received a life sentence.

In other news, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab plans to reform UK human rights legislation and do away with the ties to EU human rights legislation we are still under.

With regard to the Labour mystery, Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, had a conversation with Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, whom he had praised the day before. The Mail reported that Burnham was also due to address Conservatives at a fringe event sponsored by Transport for the North the following day. Hmm.

The cervix question that appeared at Labour’s conference was also brought up with Conservatives. Dominic Raab responded by bringing up both misogyny and misandry in a highly confused way (video):

Two MPs decided to have a bit of fun with the issue as they drove to Manchester together:

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

Health-conscious Conservative MPs Marco Longhi and Lee Anderson don’t want to fanny about when it comes to their well-being. Marco, according to their road-trip video, made sure to receive a cervix exam before heading to conference this week. Always better to be safe than sorry…

Why is it that no one ever asks if women have a prostate gland?

On the subject of health, Desmond Swayne told Julia Hartley-Brewer why he is firmly against vaccine passports:

Lord Frost (pictured on the right) threatened the EU over the post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland. Outside of the conference, pig farmers protested over the inability to get their stock to market. Boris had said that government cannot solve every issue, referring to the supply chain problem. He also told British businesses to hike staff salaries, which did not go down well, either:

I think they should give the meat away. A lot of poor families would appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 5

Boris began the day with an interview to LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Extinction Rebellion offshoot Insulate Britain had blocked some of Britain’s roads for the ninth consecutive day.

Despite injunctions from Priti Patel’s Home Office, their human blockades continue.

Boris told Ferrari they are ‘irresponsible crusties’ (video). The question remains whether Extinction Rebellion gets any Government funding:

Dominic Raab confirmed in his speech that he would be reform the Human Rights Act to free it from EU hackles.

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

They will detach it from the ECHR, enabling quicker deportations of convicted criminals and swifter action on domestic abusers …

Raab’s successor at the Foreign Office, Liz Truss, confirmed a trip to India later this month, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Guido had a chat with her:

Among other topics, the foreign secretary confided in Guido she was finding the new department’s mandarins to be “a bit ‘Yes, Minister’”…

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

Sunak claimed that there is a “new age of optimism” in the north thanks to Red Wall Tories, and heaped them with praise for “helping to change our party and change our country“. “In me, you have a Chancellor who is going to be with you every step of the way,” he added.

See? I told you these speeches were content-free.

Later in the day, he appeared at a fringe event where he was asked about the cost of Net Zero. This was his alarming answer:

Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised another reform of the NHS, which mostly involves digitisation. I can think of more pressing NHS concerns and agree with Guido:

… pouring in taxpayers’ money without checking how it’s being spent isn’t enough. That cash needs to be put to good use. Reviewing the eye-watering pay packets of some NHS diversity managers would be a start…

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope interviewed Oliver Dowden, who is thinking about resurrecting the singing of the National Anthem at conference, calling it a ‘splendid idea’.

Hope also took the opportunity to present Dowden with a ‘Tory Scum’ badge, which he put on and said he would wear for the duration of the interview. Hope suggested he wear it until the end of conference.

This video shows the badge exchange. Hope gives us more information on the aforementioned Vermin Club:

Guido says that the badges were most popular. Dehenna Davison had to order more:

Many conference-goers have spent the last couple of days asking Davison for one of her badges, only to be disappointed upon being told she’d run out. Good news however, after Davison put in an emergency order for 400 more given their popularity…

The most outrageous session of the day — and a British first — was an address by the Prime Minister’s wife to Party faithful. No Prime Minister’s spouse — we’ve had two husbands in that role — has ever made a party political address until now:

Never mind the subject matter: was it the right thing for Carrie Johnson to do — even if she is a very good public speaker? Boris watched from a distance.

Polling stable

I’ll review Boris’s closing speech in tomorrow’s post.

Post-conference polling is stable. YouGov’s was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Sir Desmond Swayne explained to Julia Hartley-Brewer that Boris’s popularity and the lack of ideas from the Opposition have buoyed the Conservatives:

What Government should do next

Health Secretary Sajid Javid needs to keep a gimlet eye on NHS spending, especially on things like this:

Guido says:

The NHS is recruiting a supplier to deliver “compassionate conversations training” to 14,000 front facing NHS staff in a publicly funded contract worth a mind-boggling £3 million. The contract tender, which was published yesterday and closes on 5 November 2021, says the aim is to equip NHS staff with “the skills they need to handle challenging situations with compassion whilst ensuring they feel able to look after their own wellbeing if needed”. Guido assumed that doctors were already taught about the importance of a good bedside manner…

It’s almost ludicrous to think that this weekend Javid promised a forensic review of the NHS’s management and leadership whilst the NHS continues to recklessly splash cash on diversity roles. Just six months ago Guido revealed that the NHS was hiring eight more ‘diversity, equality and inclusion managers’ across the country, with salaries up to as much as a whopping £62,000. If Javid is going to cut down those waiting list times he needs to focus taxpayers’ money on the clinical front line, not nonsense make-work contracts and diversity roles…

Guido says it is also time for Boris to reconsider the current Government moratorium on fracking:

If Boris wants to energise Britain, domestic gas production should be part of that mix; it would provide energy security when Britain’s energy needs are being threatened by the Russians and the the French. Boris is now in a position to do something glorious, to stop pussy-footing around and leave no stone unturned or unfracked. So get on with it…

This is what Boris had to say on the subject while he was Mayor of London:

I won’t be holding my breath on either of those propositions.

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

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