They must have come to a secret understanding…

Well you can’t say my blog title hasn’t proved to be eerily prophetic!

Over the next few days I will – technology permitting (or rather, techy friends on Twitter permitting) – be moving my blog over to WordPress, and then making a concerted effort to blog more regularly on political life in Westminster and the so-called ‘new politics’, as well as on blogworthy topical issues in Bristol. So expect a deluge of posts between now and Tuesday, when I’ll be heading back to London for the Queen’s Speech and the new session of Parliament.

I’ve spent a few days in Westminster since the election, but there’s not much been happening, except induction courses for all the newbies. I’ve bagsied a desk in the Opposition Whips office, been sworn in as a Member of Parliament, supported the re-election of John Bercow as Speaker, listened to lots of complaints from colleagues about IPSA (the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which has not got off to a good start) and begun to pack up my office on the 4th floor, 1 Parliament Street in anticipation of a move into the Palace of Westminster itself. My new office will probably be a dark and poky hole, but a damn sight more convenient. No need to sprint whenever the division bell goes.

For the time being, the Government whips – minus one who lost his seat, and two who stood down at the election, including the irreplaceable Tommy McAvoy, who had been in the Whips Office since time immemorial – are carrying on as whips in Opposition. It’s a better deal though, in Opposition; we’re allowed to speak in the Chamber, apart from on issues covered by our departmental responsibilities, which means no Education, DFID or Northern Ireland for me. But apart from that, I’m looking forward to being able to raise issues in the Chamber again, after a ten month absence.

Harriet is Acting Leader until September 25th, when the Labour leadership contest comes to a no doubt nail-biting end at Conference. Once that’s sorted we’ll have Shadow Cabinet elections. Until then former ministers have been asked to carry on in those roles in Opposition, with a bit of moving around to fill in the gaps, for example, Andy Burnham lost all four of his junior Ministers at the election (Phil Hope, Mike O’Brien, Gilly Merron and Ann Keen), so he’s going to need to draft in reinforcements. Rosie Winterton is taking over from Harriet as Leader of the House, which led to the entertaining sight of her trying to make conversation with Sir George Young, her Tory counterpart, as they followed Black Rod to the Lords on the day of the Speaker’s election. I’m sure they get on perfectly well with each other; it’s just the 20″ height difference that’s a problem!

So… Parliament starts properly on 25th May with the Queens Speech, which goes on for more than a week. The debate that is, not the actual speech. And parliamentary questions start on 2nd June, with DFID questions (my suggestion: why the hell has Alan Duncan been appointed to DFID?) followed by David Cameron’s first ever PMQs.  Nick Clegg won’t get to ask any questions; he’ll just have to sit and watch. And Lib Dem MPs will be counted as part of the Government quota. They sit on the Government benches, some more reluctantly than others. There were a lot of yellow ties on display amongst the backbench Libs when we assembled for the Speaker election, and Bob Russell MP was wearing a very lurid yellow waistcoat (which he removed on leaving the Chamber, so a not-so-subtle demonstration of just how he feels about joining the Tories). Interesting times ahead of us!

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  • ralasdair  On May 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I dunno if you’re up and running to do comments yet, but here goes.

    Kevin Maguire suggested yesterday that Mandy and Lord Adonis not being in the Shadow Cabinet yesterday is somehow indicative of…well, something. Surely it’s just because the ministers they’d be shadowing are now in the Commons, and as such need shadows who are in the Commons too??

  • kerrymccarthy  On May 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    You’re right… in Government being a departmental lead is about a whole lot more than appearances in Parliament. In Opposition, you don’t have a department to run, so it makes sense to have the leads in the Commons. So for the time being Pat McFadden is leading on DBIS (or whatever it’s called this week) and Sadiq Khan on Transport.

  • makersnameplate  On May 22, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Look forward to reading more in the coming weeks.


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