This last month has been a very difficult time. The Conservative MP David Amess was brutally attacked by a coward but Parliament came together to celebrate his 38 years of service. During the fitting tributes to his humour and gentlemanly conduct, we remembered my friend Jo Cox and it was a day which showed the very best of Westminster.
Sadly, however, last week saw some of the lowest behaviour ever to disgrace Parliament. A Tory MP broke 300-year-old rules by taking hundreds of thousands of pounds to ask questions and secure access to Ministers. The cross-party, independent process found him guilty of ‘an egregious case’ of rule breaking but Boris Johnson ordered Tory MPs to vote to overturn the ruling and to protect the guilty culprit from punishment. We perhaps should not be surprised under a government that has seen prosecutions for crime slump to just one in ten, but Tory sleaze and outright corruption was back in some force – and backed right from the top in a way we have never seen before in the UK.
In between those contrasting episodes, we also had a Budget. The public wanted a new post-crisis settlement after all the strife we have all lived through together. After World War II Labour built the NHS, social security, and more housing than any previous government. The current administration announced very little – and much of what did appear was a rehash. I have pored over the Budget trying to spot anything for London, but our capital was sadly overlooked despite 40% child poverty in parts of Southwark, a housing crisis, and an infrastructure challenge requiring investment from Ministers who seem disinterested in the economic case which proves that when London builds, the whole country benefits.
The Chancellor’s only big claim in his Budget was that ‘public services will receive the biggest investment in a decade’. Which demonstrates what a loss the last 11 years of Tory misrule has been. The country would have been better off sticking with Labour since 2010!
The Budget and wider Government plans will leave working people worse off. After cruelly axing the Universal Credit ‘uplift’ worth £86 a month, the Budget replaced it with a new taper system which returns less than what Ministers have already taken, and to far fewer people. Most families will remain worse off – and that’s before new taxes are imposed.
Tory policy means taxes will reach their highest level in over 70 years and will cost most families an extra £3,000. Ministers are simply not offering any value for money either, especially not to communities like ours where we still have fewer police officers than we did in 2010 and are simply under-served by the corrupt and increasingly grubby Johnson Government, lining Tory donors’ pockets with covid contracts, and allowing the return of ‘cash for questions’ sleaze.
As winter begins to bite, and despite making some further security adjustments, I am still here to help. I will still see people face-to-face in my Bermondsey office, but with pre-booked appointments only. This is a crucial part of our democracy, but it is also one of the best parts of serving our community. I can also help over the phone, by email, and in online meetings, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch!