|A 'Roller-Coaster' Ride Ahead|
Says the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq
We live in exciting times. After suffering its second defeat in a row Labour also has a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn who was selected with a huge mandate of 60% of voters including many new, young members.
We get told that young people are not interested in politics any more – Corbynmania gives the lie to that.
It’s 5 months since the General Election and to me as a newbie Labour MP it still feels novel and… well a bit weird.
I can claim to have bucked the trend and defied political gravity by toppling the Tory in Ealing and Acton to win – I am still pinching myself for having done it. It is the only workplace I’ve ever experienced where you have to swear a solemn oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen as part of the initiation rites. Lots of issues have come up in Parliament.
In July I led a 90 minute debate called "housing supply in London". I also asked a Parliamentary question to the education minister on teacher retention that linked the issue to high housing costs in Ealing and Acton stopping new trainees staying in local schools and causing a brain drain away from the borough. The subject was again raised by MPs in a debate on “affordable housing in London” in September. Although only a newbie, even I found myself getting a sense of déjà vu.
Among topics that came up were the first-time buyer market and generation rent; the numbers of young people living in shared houses, or even with their parents, right up to their 30s; the ability of councils to build houses with proceeds from sales; the disastrous new right-to-buy policy; the axing of Labour’s decent homes standards; the changing definition of affordability; and the dwindling number of key workers in the capital.
Questions I asked were “The average age of an unaided first-time buyer in London is now 37, what does the Minister predict that would be by the end of this Government’s term in office?” I also raised the question of affordability. The Mayor of London’s definition of affordable is 80% of market rent, but is that realistic or desirable? Can we change it? I had no reply to that question.
I asked the Minister who responded to the debate in July whether he would consider including a provision in his next housing Bill banning overseas and off-plan investors from buying future new builds, so that local London first-time buyers would at least have a chance. That was the No. 1 thing for me as a candidate, and it is the No. 1 thing in my postbag and inbox as an MP.
The government has sneaked in some draconian stuff. On the Trade Union Bill to limit organisation in the workplace the depth and breadth of opposition was wider than just the “usual suspects”. David Davis MP, former shadow Home Secretary, has compared these parts of the Bill to the crackdown seen under Franco’s dictatorship in Spain. The former business secretary Vince Cable called it “vindictive, ideological with no evidence base”. Even organisations like the employers group CIPD and Amnesty International, more used to dealing with abuses of torture victims abroad have condemned it and 100 academics including large numbers of staff from the nation’s business schools, not normally renowned as being hot beds of radicalism.
On the subject of the EU referendum independently minded Conservative MPs from the opposite side of this house joined with us to defeat Conservative legislation. This is a reminder of how thin their majority is. If we are smart we can do this again.
The Assisted Dying bill was for me an example of how the public now impacts decision-making my postbag/ inbox has had a high level of activity on this one with hundreds of letters and emails from constituents and organised groups including churches, the medical and the disability lobby.
At first it was the “pros” electronically then were the “antis” by postcard and in sum the total correspondence has been split down the middle between those supporting the proposed legislation, one slogan I saw was “I’ll see myself out” and those who oppose it, whose argument boils down to “not dead yet”. The contents have included an unusually high number of moving personal testimonies to support powerful points made.
In consequence, I attended to listen to all arguments from all sides of the house and still finding it very hard deciding how to vote I abstained on the motion having considered carefully all of the arguments and evidence available on what really is a life and death issue of vital importance to the direction of our society.
With our new leader, Cameron having announced his departure before the end of this term plus the expanded number of SNP and depleted Liberal Democrats in Parliament it’s going to be a roller-coaster of a ride ahead until 2020.
21st September 2015