When the result of the division on the Government motion was announced I was stood at the back of MPs crowded at the entrance to the Commons. So I didn’t see the Labour whips move to the position where the winners of the vote get to shout out the result. The stunned silence quickly gave way to tasteless Labour cheers. Low politics had collided with complex diplomacy.
The Prime Minister and the Deputy PM had recalled Parliament to stage the first defeat of the Coalition. And I was on the losing side with them. Everyone seemed pretty stunned by the result. It may have been avoidable if Ministers had been able to invest more time in winning over sceptical colleagues, like the Obama Administration is doing with Congress. But that would have depended either on Labour shrugging off the shadow of Iraq or some Tories embracing internationalism over isolation.
So where does this leave Britain’s place in the world? In the short term, just a bit muddled. But pretty quickly we have to decide whether our future foreign policy is predicated on Britain being an outward looking international player or a shrunken hulk of isolationism. There are those on the right of the Tory party, haunted by UKIP, who want Britain to withdraw from the European Union and don’t seem to place much value on the US “special relationship” either. Bizarrely, some of the same people want to increase defence spending and renew Trident.
Labour are desperate to put the spectre of Iraq behind them. But Syria is not Iraq. Assad has weapons of mass destruction and is prepared to use them. When we voted on Thursday it was not at the last moment with hundreds of thousands of UK and US troops poised at the border, as in March 2003. There had been no “dodgy dossier” or partial advice from the Attorney General. The Coalition Government cooperated with the Opposition on the motion and promised a second vote ahead of any military strike against Assad’s capability to use chemical weapons again. Unlike 2003, the government was proposing joint action with a Democrat US President, with a Socialist French President on board too. Labour MPs might think that the defeat of the Coalition’s motion was smart domestic politics, covering up Miliband’s lacklustre summer and putting distance between them and the Blair legacy. But I think they will soon regret ignoring the case for humanitarian intervention. It’s a long way from the spirit of the socialist international brigades and Spanish civil war posters saying “if you tolerate this, then your children will be next.”
I voted with the government because I am a liberal internationalist. I want Britain to play a full role in an enlarged European Union. The EU’s newest member is Croatia. Macedonia is next in the queue. In the mid 1990s I was ashamed that the Major government did not do more to restrain Milosevic’s ethnic clensing in Bosnia. I applauded Blair for acting swiftly when people were burned out of their villages in Kosovo.
I believe it is the duty of advanced democracies to use their resources to advance and protect human rights around the world. In the main, that should be through peaceful means. Trade agreements, cultural exchanges and a generous aid programme are all part of the mix. I am proud of the fact that the Coalition government will this year hit the forty year old target of 0.7% of our national income being allocated to international aid. We will have almost doubled the budget of the International Development Department in a time of fiscal austerity elsewhere in government.
But sometimes we have to wave a big stick against regimes that are not interested in diplomacy and human rights. That’s why I voted to intervene in Libya two years ago, to avert a massacre by Gadaffi. That’s why I would still vote to support British participation in a surgical strike against Assad’s ability to mass murder Syrian civilians. It would not be about regime change or taking sides in a civil war. It would certainly not be an Iraq style invasion. But it would be about doing what we can to protect the lives of innocent people from the barbarous actions of a brutal dictator.
My conscience is clear after Thursday’s vote. But I am worried about Britain’s place in the world and whether people fearing oppression and destruction will in future look to us for hope and salvation.
Imagine the scene in four years time. You’ve been on the train from London for the last one hour and twenty five minutes. The journey has been smooth and quiet, on one of the new inter-city trains, powered by electric. As the train approaches Bristol Temple Meads you see to your left a boat docking by the wharf next to the hotch potch of different building designs that make up Bristol Media Village. Beyond looms the roofline of the recently opened arena.
The train pulls into the grand Passenger Shed, the original terminus of Brunel’s trains in 1841. Your fellow passengers have been chatting about their options for reaching their final destination. A lawyer will walk to her office in Queen Square. A tourist is intending to pick up a Brompton and cycle to the SS Great Britain. A group of students will get the bus to the Triangle. One of them prefers to get a taxi from the new rank on Isambard Walk, next to the new terminus. A family plan to catch the harbour ferry in order to visit M Shed.
And you? You now have a choice of how to get home to St Andrews on the North Bristol Circle Line. Your nearest station is Ashley Down. The train via Horfield leaves in ten minutes. The one via Clifton leaves 5 minutes sooner and you could catch that…but it means walking up the hill from Montpelier. Besides, a wait gives you more time to visit the station shops. You then join the rowdy crowd on the anti-clockwise train who are off to watch some Twenty Twenty cricket at the revamped County Ground.
Tomorrow you will choose to trundle your suitcase down to Montpelier in order to catch the Portishead train. You’ll be getting off at Portbury to be met by the luxury coach that will take you to the quayside where the Queen Mary is waiting to take you and hundreds of other Bristolians on the maiden voyage to New York.
Fanciful stuff? Not really. There’s a consensus, at least among Bristol’s MPs, Mayor and councillors, that rail has a great future. The electrification of the main line was agreed by the Coalition in 2011. The first gantries are already going up around Reading. Track capacity between Temple Meads and Parkway is to be increased, enabling the re-opening of stations at Ashley Hill (or Ashley Down as it should really be called) and Horfield. Network Rail is planning to take over the operation of Temple Meads and has ambitious plans for a complete revamp of the station experience.
Last Saturday I joined Charlotte Leslie MP, First Great Western managers and a great crowd of Bristol transport campaigners for a trip up Filton Bank, around the “Henbury Loop”, up to Severn Beach and back down the existing branch line via Clifton to Temple Meads. Much of the track infrastructure for new passenger services is already in place. The Lib Dem administration of Bristol City Council successfully launched the concept of a Bristol Metro last year, endorsed by neighbouring authorities and transport campaigners. Investment will be needed in signalling and new stations. But above all we need all the stakeholders to get their ducks in a row and agree a rapid timetable for bringing this vision into reality.
And a liner to New York? Why not? Brunel would approve.
To add your voice to my campaign to get a new station at Ashley Down, go here http://www.ashleydownstation.com/
To support Charlotte Leslie’s campaign for the line through Henbury, go here http://www.henburyloop.bristolpetitions.com/
Added 13 Sept 2013 – Cllr Sean Emmett has a petition to support the reopening of a station for Lockleaze and Horfield
Bill Clinton had a slogan in his Presidential campaign headquarters – “It’s the economy, stupid!” What was true 21 years ago in the US has even more validity in Britain today. I never miss an opportunity to talk up Bristol as England’s most prosperous city region, a powerhouse of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
Prosperity means jobs. Across the country over 1 million new jobs have been created since 2010. Unemployment has been falling steadily in Bristol for the last year and the number of people in work is at an all time high. Our city is a centre of excellence for aerospace, digital media and professional services. Those sectors are complemented by two universities that excel in research and technical training. A great example would be the Robotics Centre, run jointly by Bristol University and UWE.
Government is contributing to the growing Bristol economy by some targeted investment in the region. Vince Cable often mentions the National Composites Centre, which he opened in 2011, where there is the combination of research and innovation necessary to keep Britain a world leader in aerospace. The centre is modelled on the German “catapults” that have kept Germany ahead of the rest of Europe in manufacturing. As Secretary of State for Business, Vince is reviewing each sector of the economy and making sure government is a facilitator not an obstruction to growth.
The German lead in manufacturing is not just down to their technical innovation. They also have a highly skilled workforce. Britain is now catching up, with a massive expansion in the number of apprentices. Over the last year I have been visiting a variety of Bristol businesses in order to meet their apprentices. These have included world leading large companies such as Rolls Royce as well as smaller businesses in the aerospace supply chain.
An apprenticeship is a great way to acquire a well regarded qualification. Not every young person has achieved the good grounding at school or college to start an apprenticeship. Charities such as the Prince’s Trust can get people on to the right path. The government is going to help soon as Vince wants to push “traineeships” as a bridge to an apprentice place. Youth unemployment is much lower in Britain than most European countries but I want Bristol to be a city where no young person who can work is left languishing on welfare payments.
So the focus of Liberal Democrats in government is on growing a stronger economy and a fairer society where everyone can get on in life. I wish our coalition partners would realise that banging on about whether Britain should stay in the EU puts at risk our future prosperity. Bristol and Britain will prosper only if we remain a strong participant in the world’s largest single market.
Note – this article was written for the Bristol Post and published on 12th July 2013.
Everyone is familiar with the Clock Tower of Parliament, housing what must be the most famous clock in the world. Tours up the tower to see the clock mechanism and the Big Ben bell itself are very popular with Bristol West constituents. The Clock Tower is now officially named the Elizabeth Tower, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. But the taller and larger tower at the other end of the Palace of Westminster, named after the Queen’s great great grandmother, is far less well known.
But the Victoria Tower houses a treasure trove of artefacts much more significant than a clock. Here we are concerned with chronology rather than horology. The tower is home to the Parliamentary Archives. I’ve just had a fascinating visit to see a selection of the Parliamentary records and political collections held in the archive. The primary collection is the original copy of every Act of Parliament. I asked the chief archivist when was the first Act? It’s not easy to identify the precise moment when Parliament became a legislature, initiating measures by itself rather than endorsing the wishes of the King. But the first Act held in the Victoria Tower dates from 1497 and was for the regulation of apprentices working in the Norfolk wool worsteds trade. Since then there have been over 64,000 Acts of Parliament!
The original Bills are written on sheep or goat skin vellum. They are rolled up and stacked upon row after row of shelves, arranged by reign. The fattest rolls are finance bills….and having just sat through several weeks of the Finance Bill 2013 (a mere 230 clauses and 49 Schedules) I can say nothing has changed! The thinnest rolls are private family Bills, dating to the times when Parliament had to grant divorces.
Medieval Bills, like modern ones, were subject to amendment. These days amendments are printed and if passed the Bill is reprinted for its later stages. But to avoid the laborious process of rewriting rolls of vellum the medieval Parliamentary clerks devised a simple solution. They wrote out the amendment and then sewed it onto the side of the Bill roll. Sounds much simpler than dealing with “tracked changes” in a Word document!
The archives also hold some of the records of politicians. The most famous is that of my hero, Lloyd George. This was the actual reason for my visit, as a follow up to the recent exhibition in Parliament marking the 150th anniversary of his birth. I was shown some notes passed across the cabinet table between Lloyd George and Churchill at the outset of the first world war. The Lloyd George Archive is the most popular source consulted by visiting historians.
For more about the Parliamentary Archives see here http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/parliamentary-archives/
For my motion on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Lloyd George see here http://www.parliament.uk/2012-2013/931
My regular slot on Radio Four’s Westminster Hour MP panel tonight had a sting in the tail…a discussion about whether MPs should accept a pay rise! There’s probably never been a time when the press and the public think that MPs deserve a pay rise. But at the moment I would agree that the time is not right. My salary has been frozen for three years since May 2010, in line with other public sector employees earning more than £21,000 a year. Public sector pay goes up by 1% in the next two years and we should expect to get no more.
The trouble is that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority are rumoured to be on the brink of announcing a substantial pay award for MPs. IPSA was created in the aftermath of the furore over MPs’ expenses four years ago. It sets the terms of Parliamentary pay, pensions, budgets for staff and office costs and MPs’ personal employment expenses such as travel and accommodation. We MPs have absolutely no say in any aspect of the regime, including our salary. So MPs (nor meddling party leaders) cannot instruct IPSA to set MP pay at any particular level.
What are the facts? MPs salaries have been frozen at £65,738 since April 2010. They were increased by 1% on 1st April this year and the same is currently planned by IPSA for April 2014. MP salaries have barely changed over the last ten years. A decade ago the salary was £56,358 so the rise since then has been an average of just 1.66%, meaning a substantial real terms pay cut in gross salary. Pension contributions have also increased several times and are the highest in the public sector. The new IPSA expense scheme rules mean many MPs are subsidising their normal employment costs (eg overnight accommodation and subsistence in London) out of their salaries. I put these points as facts, readers can draw their own conclusions whether MPs are treated generously.
What’s to be done? If IPSA award say a 10% pay rise, MPs will be in a very awkward spot. No doubt the three party leaders will demand that that IPSA is ignored. But that would destroy the case for an independent body. Personally, if my pay rises by more than the rest of the public sector, I will donate the difference to charities.
But if I could make a suggestion to my IPSA paymasters it would be this – don’t make any substantial changes until the day after the next general election. There’s never a good time to change MPs’s pay but immediately after an election removes any hint of vested interest. Pay could be set for the entire 2015 – 2020 Parliament and not changed again for 5 years.
At the same time I would ban all MPs from receiving any salaries or emoluments from parallel careers. Being an MP (at least for me) is a full time job. In fact it is more often than not a seven day a week long hours job. There should be no outside earnings from the legal profession or company directorships. I’ve noticed in past debates over MP salaries that it is the rich MPs who call for restraint by their poorer colleagues. If Parliament is to be a place where everyone can serve without feeling either financial embarrassment or expecting a lucrative career, then MPs must be adequately paid and they must all be paid the same base salary.
While Britain seems set for a long period of debate about our continued membership of the European Union, other countries are strengthening their position in the European family of nations. Last year I went on a double MP delegation to help Macedonia in its preparatory stages for EU membership. Last week I returned from a visit to another small state that has made a huge success since joining, Estonia.
The delegation was entirely Lib Dem, led by Malcolm Bruce, also including Simon Hughes, Andrew Stunell and Robin Teverson, a former MEP now in the Lords. For Malcolm and myself it was a follow up to our visit in 2007. Estonia also has a centre-right coalition, but this one is Liberal led by the Reform Party and we met with several of our fellow liberals on the visit.
Estonia is one of the smallest EU states, with a population of 1.3 million. The majority of its inhabitants are Estonian speaking but there is a significant Russian speaking minority of about 23%, a legacy of the long period of rule by imperial Russia and then occupation by the Soviet Union until 1991. Estonian is a unique language, of little use outside Estonia, a miracle of survival next to the dominant Russian bear. As a Welshman, I can empathise! But while Wales is mountainous, Estonia is flat and 70% trees and bog. Our road journey from the capital Tallin, to Kuresssare on the island of Saaremaa was one of the most monotonous of my life as the bus swept through endless forest.
In its second period of independence (the first being between the deposition of Czar Nicholas II and the invasion by Stalin in 1940) since 1991 Estonia has established itself as a liberal, high tech, fiscally sound country. It has achieved the greatest prosperity of the three ex Soviet Baltic states, in particular since joining the EU in 2004. The Reform Party led coalition has persued a policy of free market economics. It has the lowest proportion of government debt to the economy of any EU state, at about 10%, an eighth of our rate. When we met Prime Minister Andrus Ansip he bluntly told us that governments should not borrow off the next generation. Summit meetings with Gordon Brown must have been lively.
Estonia’s finances were so sound that they were able to join the € in 2011. Its southern neighbour Latvia will join next year so any right wing Tory hopes for a collapse of the single currency are wide of reality. Estonia is unique in Europe for its flat rate of taxes. Income and company taxes are both 21%. Individuals have a tiny personal allowance of €144 a month so the flat rate is quite regressive. All is not what it seems on the corporate side either with a swingeing 30% payroll tax, an equivalent of our NIC but used to fund all health and welfare spending. A dedicated tax for the NHS is something the Liberal Democrats have considered and this may be the way to separate out political wrangling on NHS spending and bureaucracy from actual health care policies.
While Estonia practices free market economics I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s also socially liberal. But this may be due to a more relaxed attitude to social norms from elsewhere in Europe. The country has the lowest rate of religious adherence and marriage rates are low. I hope they will soon allow same sex marriage and it will probably happen with less fuss than in the UK. The country is run by a relatively young group of people. I had a great discussion with the 32 year old Taavi Roivas, the minister for social affairs…which covers the equivalent of our health department and DWP, like the old UK DHSS of the 1970s and 80s.
But the most radical, though unsurprising, innovation by this young country is its embrace of new technology. One of the highlights of the week was the visit to the ICT Demo Centre http://e-estonia.com/ict-demo-center The country won’t be chopping down any of its millions of trees to make paper as it moves steadily towards an e-enabled society. All government services can be accessed or implemented on line. Internet access was described as a “social right” with fast broadband available everywhere and also free wi-fi access in most public and commercial buildings. More than 90% of tax returns are filed on line. In the 2011 general election a quarter of people voted via the Internet. Once the election campaign is underway voting can begin and the system even allows for people to change their vote up to 7 days before the election! It may make our campaigning sound antiquated though I’m a long way from being converted to e-voting.
Finally, a little note on Estonia’s painful history. They are well disposed towards the British as the Royal Navy saw off the Soviet ships in 1918, enabling Estonian independence. Freedom was short lived as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact handed the country back to Soviet occupation. Prime Minister Ansip showed us the portraits of his predecessors from 1918-1940, all murdered by Stalin.
On my last visit in 2007 there was a visit to Narva, on the border with Russia. Two medieval castles, one Swedish and one Russian, face each other across the river. The town is literally at the edge of the European Union. The two castles act as a metaphor for two visions of Europe. One is a bastion of freedom of expression, of trade and innovation and international cooperation. The other expresses a quite different fortress mentality, with limited personal freedom. Estonia may be at the fringes of Europe but in its mind it is at the centre of the modern Europe that all liberals want to see.
This afternoon I stood in a packed House of Commons for the most nerve racking speech of my career so far. After the pomp and pageantry of the Queen’s Speech (for which I had a bird’s eye view from the Lords Gallery) MPs debate the speech over several days. By tradition, the debate is initiated by two backbench MPs, formally presenting a “Humble Address” of thanks to Her Majesty. I was one of the MPs to be given that honour today.
While I am well used to speaking in the Commons, the Humble Address is a major Commons event for which the chamber is packed. The speech is meant to be a mixture of the serious and light hearted. The Commons has been described as the most formidable theatre of debate in the world. On this occasion most MPs across all parties wish you well but you are aware of the schadenfreude that might be felt if you crash and burn. It’s also an extremely rare occasion when all the party leaders are listening and the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader refer to you in their own speeches. So the stakes were high!
Anyway I managed to turn my back of an envelope notes scribbled on the train yesterday into a ten minute speech. To my huge relief, it seemed to go well and colleagues from all parties have been making kind comments all afternoon.
Here’s the Hansard official record of what I said, following Conservative MP Peter Luff, who mentioned his hero was Brunel:
It is an honour to second the motion on the Humble Address and a particular pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Peter Luff). I guess that that might be the first of several valedictory speeches we will hear from him over the next two years. When he does reach retirement after the next general election, the third age of life, I invite him to visit my constituency, where he will see the greatest concentration of Brunel heritage assets anywhere, including the Clifton suspension bridge, Bristol Temple Meads station and SS Great Britain. He will be most welcome.
I am sure that most of us, whether we saw it in person or watched it on television, will have enjoyed the pageantry of the state opening of Parliament. My first experience of royal London was as a school boy, when I stayed with my grandmother’s sisters in north London in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My Aunty Eve and Aunty Edith lived in Finchley. I was somewhat surprised, when walking down the high street, to see framed photographs of the local Member of Parliament at the time, Mrs Thatcher. It was something of a culture shock for a valleys boy from the mining village of Abercynon in south Wales. I do not know, Mr Speaker, whether there are such framed photographs of you or, indeed, whether there are framed photographs of the current Prime Minister in his constituency, but I remember at the Liberal Democrat spring conference in Sheffield a couple of years ago being somewhat startled to be confronted by enormous billboards paid for by Unite—an organisation which, if I may say so, funds quite a lot of mischief around the country—that were adorned with a curious image of a creature called Cleggzilla who was trampling public services before him. [Interruption.] Mischief, as I said.
Mrs Thatcher—this will not surprise you, Mr Speaker, or anyone else—is certainly not my political hero. My political hero is one of the other contenders for the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century: Lloyd George. I first saw a statue of Lloyd George by Caernarfon castle and I visited the library and museum about him at Llanystumdwy—another boyhood holiday destination, Butlins in Pwllheli in north Wales, which is perhaps not quite so familiar to most members of the Cabinet. Lloyd George and Asquith laid the foundations of the welfare state, including the old age pension. I am therefore delighted that one of the key announcements in today’s Queen’s Speech is a further radical reform of the state pension that will correct an injustice that has been within the system for many decades for those who stay at home to look after their children. I am also delighted that the single-tier state pension is to be taken through Parliament by my Greater Bristol parliamentary colleague, the pensions Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb).
Lloyd George headed a Liberal-Conservative coalition that broke up 81 years ago. I understand that our current coalition colleagues recently celebrated the anniversary of their 1922 committee, but I am sure that rumours of a new 2015 committee are unfounded. I have heard the Prime Minister say that he has a better relationship with the 1922 committee than some of his predecessors. The Prime Minister and I were born within 48 hours of each other. For the avoidance of doubt, he is the older of the two, but I can see from this vantage point that genetics have been kinder to him than they have to me, particularly in the tonsorial department, both in colour and cover. While our family and school circumstances were quite different, we must have had similar cultural reference points and experiences during the 1970s and ’80s. I believe that he was a fan of The Smiths—though I understand that the feeling is not entirely mutual—while I preferred Duran Duran and ABBA, with my favourite song being “Dancing Queen”, which will not come as much of a surprise to many of my colleagues.
That leads me, almost neatly, into one of the great social reforms of this Parliament, and that is of course gay marriage. The right of same-sex couples to demonstrate their love and commitment to each other before their family and friends will be a lasting social reform of this Parliament. The legislation is brought forward by this coalition Government but supported by Members from all parties around the House. Bristol West has three Quaker meeting houses, a Unitarian chapel and a reform synagogue, so the country’s first same-sex marriage may well be in my own constituency—but, personally, I am still waiting for my own Prince Charming so that I may be able to take advantage of this new legal right.
Whatever the background of my constituents, my Lib Dem colleagues and I want to build for them a stronger economy and a fairer society where everyone is able to get on in life. We already know that by the end of this tax year the amount of pay that people can take home free of income tax will have been raised to £10,000. It was announced today in the Queen’s Speech that there will be a national insurance contributions Bill giving employers a £2,000 national insurance credit, enabling them to take on take on new employees. That means that a business could take on four adults on the national minimum wage and pay no national insurance. Moreover, 450,000 small businesses will have their national insurance bills eliminated completely. We have cut taxes for people in work and we are also cutting national insurance and reforming child care to enable people to enter or stay in employment.
In Bristol, the new enterprise zone around Bristol Temple Meads station will become a hub for media businesses. Bristol already has a worldwide reputation for film making, with Aardman Animations perhaps the most famous, especially for its cartoon characters, Wallace and Gromit. This summer, Bristol will be adorned with 80 statues of its most famous animated dog, and they will be sold at a “Gromit Unleashed” auction in order to raise money for the Bristol children’s hospital. Before that auction takes place, I would like to invite the Leader of the Opposition to come to Bristol to pose next to a statue of Gromit—I am sure the cartoonists would be delighted.
I came into politics to tackle the social inequality—particularly in education and health—that I found in the village where I grew up and in the city where I have lived all my adult life. Bristol has some schools where almost everyone achieves high grades and proceeds to university, but there are also some schools in the city where expectations historically have been the opposite. I am delighted that the Lib Dem policy of the pupil premium, brought into life by this coalition Government, is already giving extra resources for each child on free school meals and will make a huge difference to their life chances.
Health inequalities are also stark in Bristol. The biggest cause of early death is, of course, smoking. If I am allowed on this occasion to express one disappointment with the Queen’s Speech, it is with the lack of new measures to reduce the number of children taking up smoking. The regulation of lobbyists was also absent from the Queen’s Speech. I am sure that some will conclude that tobacco lobbyists will celebrate that as a double victory.
Many of us will be pondering the lessons and meanings of last week’s local election results. Perhaps, as Disraeli said,
“England does not love coalitions.”—[Official Report, 16 December 1852; Vol. 123, c. 1,666.]
I do not think so. All three main parties should be concerned about why people are turning to what might be thought of as marginal parties. Robert Kennedy, when trying to understand the appeal of Governor Wallace of Alabama, said:
“About one-fifth of the people are against everything all of the time.”
We need to think about how to counter this new, curious alliance of Nigels, who both advocate withdrawal from Europe and deny the human contribution to climate change.
On the European Union, Europhiles, such as me and many of my colleagues, and Euro-pragmatists in the Government need to make the case for Britain’s participation in Europe, and we need to do so with some urgency. On the EU, immigration and climate change, I believe that leadership, not followership, is required.
Finally, my most illustrious predecessor as MP for the historic city of Bristol was Edmund Burke. He had much to say on that matter and wrote to his constituents:
“it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents.”
He concluded his address to the electors of Bristol:
“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
That is all very well, but I am afraid that in 1780 the electors of Bristol showed Mr Burke the door. In 2013 we have to listen as well as lead. I am not sure what Edmund Burke would have made of 38 Degrees.
I would like to thank all of my constituents in Bristol West for the hundreds of letters and e-mails they send me every month, and I am sure there will be plenty on this Queen’s Speech. It is with them uppermost in my mind and on behalf of my 92,000 electors in Bristol West that I say that it has been a pleasure and a privilege to second this Humble Address to Her Majesty, thanking her for her Gracious Speech today.