To be honest I anticipated this week’s few days in Parliament would be a non-event. More a case of Theresa May ostentatiously cancelling recess to show the public how tough she was. All gesture and little progress. Much like this government really!
However, away from the Chamber, as you will know by now, it has been an eventful few days.
A clutch of Labour MPs split away from their party on Monday, to be followed a day or so later by three Conservative MPs.
They’ve yet to form a new political party but, instead, have come together under an umbrella of The Independent Group. Of course the $64,000 question is what impact will they have?
We’ll have to wait and see for a few weeks as the story unwinds but I believe there are two key elements worth noting; firstly it’s both Labour and Tory MPs which could mean more from each party will follow, and, secondly, as each of the two main parties appear to have been captured by their extremes, albeit from different angles.
Labour from the top and Conservative from the bottom with the ERG which is now effectively a party within a party, it does leave a lot of MPs and those members of the public yearning for a more moderate politics, a possible place to go. Interesting times...
Debates in Parliament: I spoke in two this week. One on dementia (see later) and the other on the rise of anti-Semitism. The two most searing contributions in the latter were from a Labour leaver, Luciana Berger MP, about the thousands of abusive anti-Semitic tweets she’d received over the last year or two from Corbyn supporting Labour members and supporters. It made for grim listening.
The other, from Margaret Hodge, a well known and respected Labour MP who in the coalition days was a very effective Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. She is also Jewish and her speech silenced the House.
Powerful, searing and a stark portrait of how perfectly justifiable condemnation of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians has, for many on the hard left, morphed into rampant anti-Semitism toward all Jews.
She also made it clear that in her view this behaviour is either tacitly supported by Jeremy Corbyn or simply brushed away as untrue.
Margaret gave us a personal historical anecdote which had a contemporary resonance. It concerned a run-in she had with Derek Hatton of Militant fame 35 years ago; she went on to remind us that Mr Hatton had been formally readmitted to the Labour Party this very week.
Dementia Funding in the Community: In health Parliamentary questions I put the minister on the spot as to the government’s commitment to a suitable level of dementia funding for our much strapped local social care services.
Her answer flagged how much money was going in on dementia, but she was a bit slippery on the government’s forward-plan funding for social care. This is a crucial issue because with the right level of support, people with early to mid-onset dementia can often stay in their homes and lead secure, independent lives.
Without it though, the strain and pressures on their families are just impossible to cope with. It’s very clear from my casework postbag and community surgeries this is a growing concern, so I will keep pressing the government.
Our NHS physiotherapy services: closer to home it was good to visit the physiotherapy department at the DGH recently. A number of friends have used them recently, both at the hospital and in the community, and speak highly of the service and care they’ve received. It was fascinating to see for myself just how much they actually do.
From inpatients, to our well-known and loved hydrotherapy pool, outpatients helping those with arthritis, back and knee pain and much more - it’s astonishing the reach and range of physiotherapy as a profession. Meeting the heads of department and some of their team was a pleasure. We are blessed in our town with an outstanding physio service, and the massive increases in demand over the last few years with an ever growing number needing access to physio expertise, is clearly a challenge for them.
However I am confident that our local physiotherapists will meet these capacity challenges successfully. A really terrific bunch of highly skilled people serving Eastbourne and beyond.
That’s if folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.