Parliament’s poignant tributes to the Queen

That so many people have wanted to say something about how the Queen touched their lives, whether or not they met her, shows quite how powerful her service was. The tributes this afternoon in the House of Commons were moving because they showed the breadth of that service, from the way she carried out her constitutional duties with the government to her personal impact on many members of the House. When parliament pays tribute to someone who has just died, the cloying phrase ‘it was the House at its best’ quickly emerges. This is self-regarding, because what today’s tributes showed was not the best bits of MPs but the best

What is Penny Mordaunt up to?

Does Penny Mordaunt know what she’s getting herself into? One of her most striking promises is to give MPs something called ‘social capital pots’: cash to spend in their constituencies. They are part of her attempt to soothe colleagues by describing them as ‘people who want to serve’ – and to weaken the power of the Treasury. ‘I want to give you more agency to serve your community,’ she said. While these pots sound unremarkable, Mordaunt would be significantly changing what an MP actually does This is a fascinating idea, and not just because it flatters MPs’ egos. It’s more than the ‘pork barrel politics’ some critics have alleged of the idea,

Boris’s desperate tearoom tour

This afternoon, a text message went out to certain Tory MPs telling them that the Prime Minister was going to be in the tearoom from 4 p.m. with the plea ‘please come to support’. This tells us so many things about the mood in the Conservative party at the moment.  The first is that Johnson feels under sufficiently imminent threat to bother going over to the Commons tearoom this afternoon. And he’s right to do so: everyone I have spoken to today, including those who have been Boris loyalists all the way and have been working extremely hard to try to help him recover, say the mood of the party

Boris Johnson’s biggest problem

When the Sue Gray report was published on Wednesday, the most noticeable response was the silence among many Tory MPs. While a handful of Tories came out to criticise the Prime Minister and several came out to back Boris Johnson, the majority kept their powder dry. Since then, there hasn’t been a mass backlash against Johnson. But there has been a steady trickle of Conservative MPs coming out to say Johnson should go (the full list is here). Since Wednesday, MPs Julian Sturdy, Stephen Hammond and Bob Neill are among those to submit letters. Meanwhile, 2019 MPs Angela Richardson, Alicia Kearns and Paul Holmes – who resigned as a PPS

I feel sorry for Rishi Sunak

Perhaps I should stress from the get-go that I do not know Rishi Sunak. So far as I know, we’ve only met once, some years ago when he was working at the think-tank Policy Exchange. He showed me to my seat when I arrived late for an event. It is one of those things you must get used to in this life – that the person you last saw helping you into a folding chair will just a few years later be Chancellor of the Exchequer. When I first noticed this tendency, a wise older friend cautioned me against feeling concern about it. Best to accept it as part of

A speech which showed parliament at its best

It’s been an angry, tense few days around parliament. The Sue Gray report saw Boris Johnson accused of lying, and starting another fight about Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile that led to more allegations of dishonesty and bad faith. Anyone glancing at news from the Commons might get confirmation that MPs are a worthless sack of rats who spend all their time scratching and biting at each other. Which is why it’s important to draw attention to the other side of the Commons, which tends to get less attention: the human, collegiate side that was on display when MPs said goodbye to Jack Dromey who was the member for Birmingham Erdington

Johnson’s liaison committee skewering

Boris Johnson didn’t enjoy his two hours in front of the Liaison Committee this afternoon, and not just because he was asked repeatedly about his handling of the Tory sleaze row. He also struggled with questions about what his government was up to more generally, and appeared at times exasperated with the select committee chairs who asked them. Having spent the past couple of months riffing on Kermit the Frog’s mantra that ‘it’s not that easy being green’, it seemed Johnson was starting to realise that it’s also not that easy being Prime Minister. There is just so much to do, after all. Perhaps his workload was the reason Johnson was,

The sleaze row isn’t finished yet

Number 10 will have been relieved that the weekend did not bring new stories about Conservative MPs raking in lots of money from second jobs. There were still sleaze angles in the Sunday papers, including regarding the Prime Minister’s own dealings, but the air seems to be going out of the story a little. The past two weeks has opened up a chasm between the ‘red wall’ MPs elected in 2019 and more traditional Tories The trouble is that this week brings a whole host of new chances for the row to blow up once again. There’s the Liaison Committee hearing with the Prime Minister on Wednesday, which will include

Isabel Hardman

Does Boris have a supporters’ club left in parliament?

Boris Johnson needs to use the departure of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain to repair relations with his parliamentary party. That is very clear, and the problems have been brewing for months. What is less clear is how much of a group of naturally loyal MPs, who have the same political instincts as the Prime Minister, remains. Johnson is a strange combination of charismatic communicator and loner. Many who have known and worked alongside him for years say they still don’t see themselves as his close friends and find it hard to identify a cogent social group around the Prime Minister. His lieutenants had to work hard to build a

Rethinking MPs’ safety is not a victory for terrorism

Whenever a killing is investigated as an act of terror, there is always a tendency to think that any changes made are a victory for terrorism. While a few MPs have called for changes to how constituency surgeries are held, many more want them to carry on as they were.  But as I say in the magazine this week, given the circumstances, the rethink of MPs’ safety should be a practical exercise, not a philosophical one. In response to IRA bombing campaigns, Margaret Thatcher put a gate across Downing Street. Without it, an IRA mortar would have killed the war cabinet in 1991. That was not a ‘victory’ for the terrorists but a wise

MPs gather to pay tribute to Sir David Amess

Boris Johnson announced this afternoon that Southend will receive city status as a tribute to the campaigning work of Sir David Amess, who was killed. Sir David’s best known Commons contributing was Inserting Southend’s bid to become a city into any question, no matter how tenuous, and it seemed an inevitable way of the government marking his death. MPs paying their respects to the Southend West MP have all focused on his dedication to his constituency, but also on his kindness. Johnson told the chamber that ‘he was… one of the nicest, kindest, and most gentle individuals ever to grace these benches’. Everyone mentioned his smile and his sense of humour. The way

David Amess was killed doing one of the most crucial parts of an MP’s job

Sir David Amess was killed in the line of duty. He was doing one of the most important – and vulnerable – parts of an MP’s job, and he was killed while doing it. Most of the week, MPs go to work in a palace under armed guard. They live in houses with CCTV, panic alarms and rapid police response mechanisms in case of trouble. These measures have gradually been added to their lives as the perceived threat has increased. But in just over a decade, three serious attacks against MPs have taken place in the one place where they lack such security: their constituency surgeries. Stephen Timms was stabbed

How MPs can make the Afghanistan debate matter

It is very easy to dismiss Wednesday’s recall of Parliament as a pointless exercise in handwringing that sums up the way most MPs approach foreign policy. There will certainly be plenty of frustrating hindsight on offer from politicians who haven’t taken a blind bit of notice of Afghanistan right up until the point where they scent an opportunity to bash the government. But there are also important questions to be answered that cannot wait for the normal return of the Commons in September. The first is whether there is any likelihood of British and NATO troops returning to the country. This morning on the Today programme, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

How MPs lost their pay rise

When Rishi Sunak gets up at the despatch box tomorrow to announce his spending review, the Chancellor is expected to commit to a public sector pay freeze — with NHS workers exempt. Ever since this was first reported in the media, the idea has met heavy opposition from Labour while Tory politicians have had to get used to being asked on air why their own pay is set to go up at a time when the bulk of public sector workers’ pay is not. That well-trodden answer tends to go along the lines of ‘it’s a matter out of our control as Ipsa (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) sets MPs’ salaries’.

Clinically vulnerable MPs are still being excluded from parliament

Why is the government refusing to allow clinically vulnerable MPs to take part in debates on legislation? This row has been rumbling on for months, with no apparent enthusiasm from ministers to change the current situation. Today, senior MPs have told Coffee House they believe the government’s actions would be in breach of the Equality Act were this taking place outside parliament. Currently MPs who are shielding at home can ask questions and vote remotely, but they cannot give speeches or intervene in debates on legislation, as well as backbench business and Westminster Hall debates. This morning Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, asked

The SNP run riot at Westminster

Standing on chairs in Parliament’s Sports and Social bar, a band of portly gentlemen are bellowing out Scottish folk songs. A young barmaid, only in her early twenties yet a seasoned veteran when it comes to turfing out unruly Westminster soaks, approaches a new SNP MP and politely asks him to pack it in. Words are exchanged. Multiple witnesses allege a drunken ‘f— you’ is uttered. Defeated, the barmaid retreats behind the bar to mocking male laughter. So upset is she by the incident, she will leave her job a few weeks later. ‘They’re only just getting started,’ sighs a Labour wag as he reaches for his coat. The conquering