Words of kindness and works of community

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

There are times to act and to speak up when wrong behaviour occurs.

At the end of last week, I was honoured to be received by Imam Idris before Friday prayers at our district Islamic Society.

On behalf of Tim Loughton MP and myself (Tim was guiding his bill through the House of Commons at the time), sorrow and solidarity was offered following the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Earlier, by kind agreement of Waitrose, I had held a drop-in surgery and met a range of constituents. Some talked of individual problems.

Some said they hoped the Prime Minister would get through the EU withdrawal process. Other views were also expressed. I was glad to see local councillors in different parties discussing issues that matter to everyone.

I attended ward meetings in Arun and in Worthing. When party members come together, we do discuss how to earn success at election time.

| Also in the news - staff and police have been praised for their response to an incident at a Worthing school; these are the Worthing streets that have seen the most anti-social behaviour; and a National Express coach which operates between Eastbourne and Bournemouth will no longer stop in Worthing from next month |

The way we aim to do that is by quiet undramatic provision of good services at affordable cost to local people, often by agreement between parties.

When Sunday came, Virginia and I went to watch a grandson playing in a rugby festival at London Irish. We went on to the end of the St Patrick’s March in Piccadilly before a cheerful lunch with Rosalyn and Terence Higgins.

Sir Terence as he was, Lord Higgins as he has been for over 20 years, was the respected and effective MP for the whole of Worthing.

I commend his valedictory speech. He guided me in my early years, inspiring me to speak up for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the unlucky.

Rosalyn has also been the world’s top judge. Her international colleagues elected her to preside at the World Court in The Hague. We once observed that court hear arguments about the dividing line in the Straits of Hormuz.

Events in parliament this week, especially on Monday, have been reported extensively. When the Speaker made his individual contribution on the circumstances for another vote about the UK and the EU, I judged that there was an opportunity and a responsibility to try to get the predictable points of order going in a way that reduced the damage that could follow.

I intervened, pointing out that he used the word ‘may’ at the beginning and the word ‘must’ at the end. I added a memory of when the same issue was put back to the House in identical terms but under a different title. The Speaker responded appropriately, and the following exchanges were reasonably good natured.

The middle of the week included the refusal of MPs to wave through the Labour leadership’s three-line whip to eject from the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs two MPs, formerly Labour, whose actions confronting anti-Semitism led them to become independent. We can remember that Winston Churchill changed party at least twice.

Alongside Mike Gapes and Ian Austin, Frank Field has felt he had to stand aside from Labour, Sarah Wollaston from Conservatives and Nick Boles from his local association - and Stephen Lloyd is apart from the Lib Dems over Brexit. I have no intention of similar personal action: I will stand by others of every party to confront any victimisation of an MP who is doing a proper job on a Commons committee.

The worst excess was when Labour wanted to turf off a woman MP while on maternity leave. The quiet moderates in Parliament and in the country rightly expect us to stand up and to speak up, not to remain quiet, when wrong actions are proposed. This time we were unsuccessful but it was reassuring to see so many of my colleagues vocalising their support for moderate, considered views.

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