Westminster started with a bombshell when Speaker Bercow stopped dead the government’s plans this week to bring back, for a third time, a vote on the Prime Ministers deal with the European Union.
He quoted a precedent from 1604, which at least proves the advantage of us being an ancient country. The government though was totally unprepared, as was shown by the look of incredulity on the Chief Whip’s face. Essentially the Speaker ruled they couldn’t keep bringing back for a vote the same Bill without substantial changes, and he cited the Parliamentary procedural bible, Erskine May. However, those who were furious at Bercow railed at how he follows precedent when it suits him and not when it doesn’t. They’ve a point there but in the currently highly-charged atmosphere in Parliament, he is in charge of the procedure whether they like it or not. And trust me, seeing the utterly furious looks the government were giving him, they don’t! And as the week progressed the House became more and more fractious, topped off with the Prime Minister making a statement to the nation on Wednesday night explaining why she would be seeking a short extension to us leaving the EU from March 29 to the end of June. Two pointers here; firstly it’s been obvious for many months now that the sheer backlog of statutory instruments that need to be passed by Parliament converting EU law to British law, meant we would run out of road, and yet Theresa May has been ignoring this fact and continuing to publicly insist the UK will be leaving on March 29. So her acknowledgment was a simple acceptance of reality but it begs the question why she denied it for so long.
Very odd. Secondly, her statement on Wednesday night was rather mean-spirited. A friend of mine who was a teacher says it reminded him of a headmaster standing in front of his or her failed school and saying ‘it was all the staff’s fault’. A curious approach and it doesn’t strike me as being the best way to persuade more MPs to back your deal. Anyway, her next step now is to go to the EU and ask for a short extension. I’m sure they’ll give it to her but to what end, other than she’ll be bringing back the Bill, with a few tweaks, and hope it gets over the line at the third and probably final attempt. Assuming Speaker Bercow agrees that is. On a more productive note, I had a meeting with a minister this week to explore with him a couple of good ideas a constituent had brought me over simplifying financial contributions from absent parents, once a relationship has broken down. Always one of the more upsetting areas of casework, as you can imagine. It was a constructive chat though and a good example of politicians, of whatever party, working together to improve things for people. Something I much prefer, it has to be said.
Final word from Westminster: on Wednesday I also I bumped into two key individuals from the ongoing Brexit drama, Messrs Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg - in deep conversation with each other. I wondered idly if the former would soon be Prime Minister and the latter, Chancellor of the Exchequer? If that does happen, and it could, I make two predictions; the Conservative party will split and I’ll declare Eastbourne independent. Only joking of course; I think...
Visiting the DGH Portering Department: It was a real eye-opener for me to discover how varied the work is as a porter in the DGH. There are 24 members of the team and the part they play in keeping everything running smoothly is absolutely crucial. In a nutshell, they keep transfers running across the many miles of our hospital corridors; on average each walks around 16 miles a day, every day! And they do a lot more than I realised. Obviously moving patients on their beds, trolleys and wheelchairs; medical and non-medical equipment and medical gas cylinders being shifted higher and thither. But in addition they’re part of the emergency response teams for fires and cardiac arrest calls. Plus they control and marshalling the helipad when a chopper is landing, as well as being responsible for putting up the decontamination tents when required for major incidents. And yup. They were involved in our infamous noxious haze incident a couple of years ago.
In short our magnificent porters are in many ways the face of the DGH. The staff members who we often see when visiting or as a patient, so it was good to meet and pay tribute to them for the fine work they do in our hospital 24/7. Thanks for what you do gents. We’re all very grateful.
That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.