Brexit and Westminster: it’s not normal!

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There is an excellent political columnist for The Times, Matt Chorley, who has been reporting on all the various Brexit ups and downs for some time now. He frequently ends his column with the phrase: This Is Not Normal.

It’s an amusing writing conceit which emphasises just how much the going’s on in Westminster have been outside the norm.

And sure enough, this week proved so again. One of the amendments voted on was called the Cooper Amendment.

She (Yvette Cooper) a leading Labour MP was asking for all MPs to be given a vote on delaying the EU withdrawal deal and a no-deal, if both are rejected by Parliament, to allow more time for the withdrawal bill to pass.

I supported this as it fulfils my promise so I went into the Aye lobby to cast my vote, turned the corner, and bumped into Theresa May!

She was backing an opposition MP’s amendment to her own motion.

To repeat Mr Charley’s maxim; This Is Not Normal. However being a polite sort I said hello and invited her to pay another visit to Eastbourne, as it’s where she had grown up.

We had a little chat, I then moved further into the corridor only to spot in quick succession; Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable, the SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford and the Green MP Caroline Lucas, all ready to cast their vote alongside the PM.

It ultimately passed a whopping 502 votes to 20, clearly showing the vast majority of the House do not accept a No Deal scenario.

Under normal circumstances this would be the end of it but of course nothing is as it seems nowadays in Parliament.

Eighty eight Tory MPs abstained, along with the 20 who voted against - lead by that party within their party, the ERG.

Will the PM be able to bring them on board by the time of her final withdrawal bill vote on the March 12?

That’s a hard question to predict the answer to at the minute.

Disability Tribunals and more: Though it can be hard to imagine, other issues are still being debated in Westminster and this week was no exception.

During a debate on the Department of Work and Pensions budget, I challenged the government on elements of their Universal Credit rollout, personal independence payments (PIP) and disability appeal tribunals.

My wonderful office team in Eastbourne are one of the few MP’s offices which act, where we can, as advocates on behalf of constituents who appeal their loss of disability benefits.

This is something I’ve always been determined on since first being elected in 2010.

There’s no additional budget for this, each appeal takes up a huge amount of staff time but it’s the right thing to do.

I told the minister that the government was losing 80 per cent of cases when my team took them to appeal, so wouldn’t it be a good idea to revisit their approach.

With these numbers being lost something is going badly wrong.

Eastbourne’s Lifeboat Museum: You know how it is that one can live in a town for years, know where everything is but somehow never get around to visiting?

Well I think a good example of this is Eastbourne’s very own splendid Lifeboat Museum.

I was talking to some local residents recently, mentioned it and - shock horror - they’d never even been.

Only when I described where it was did they realise they’d been walking past it for years.

So it’s time for a bit of intel for all of you, the readers of the Herald, in case you haven’t popped in for a look-see.

The shop and museum was one of the first across the whole RNLI network, and as with so many other great things that happen locally, it’s run entirely by volunteers. Forty-one of them in total.

I was amused to hear from their manager, Graham Murphy, that he originally retired to Eastbourne planning to take things easy, and is now as busy as ever running the shop!

He obviously loves what he’s doing though, as do all the other volunteers.

They’re committed to the lifeboat ethos which plays such an important role in our town’s sense of self; of us being by the sea.

Do swing by and have a look. It’s open seven days a week 10 - 3pm (5pm in the summer) and situated down by the bottom of the Wishtower slopes.

Thank you Graham and your wonderful team of volunteers for all that you do for the RNLI, and for Eastbourne.

That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.