You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘West Midlands’ tag.

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.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,542 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

October 2022
S M T W T F S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,688,147 hits