Prime Ministers Questions
Once more, I secured a Prime Minister Question. I opted to raise the matter of a Tory fundraising dinner, the Black and White Party. It was widely reported in newspapers that there were auctions to buy events with the top ranking Tory parliamentarians. I accept that newspaper reports are no guarantee of accuracy. However, I wanted the Prime Minister to clarify.
On the day, the Speaker abruptly interrupted. He said that the PM didn’t have to answer as I was “suggesting that the presence of a Member of Parliament was bought” and when I referred to newspapers he confirmed the PM did not have to answer. Rather disappointingly she chose not to answer…I would have thought a Prime Minister capable of doing a rebuttal at the dispatch box.
I should have made clear to the Speaker I was not saying they were “bought” in a bribery type of way. However, the point of the auction was that people bought time with the Government Ministers - £30,000 paid to have a visit to the Churchill War Rooms with the Defence Secretary; £55,000 to shadow the Prime Minister for the day; £15,000 for dinner with Ruth Davidson. All money raised would go to Tory party funds. I am well aware that political parties have to raise money to fight elections and there are rules about donations to aid transparency. Equally I know many people are uncomfortable about so many Government Ministers being able to offer such time out their diaries when they are (a) supposed to be running the UK Government and (b) negotiating the exit from the EU.
Overall on the social media, then it was either deemed a good talking point or ridiculous and out of order depending on your political viewpoint! Interestingly a few MPs approached me afterwards, including a Tory MP, who thought the question should have stood without interruption.
Lastly, the Black and White Party/Ball has been widely reported on a number of times. I would suspect that had the papers got it so blatantly wrong then they would have been challenged/reported by now.
Reading Room/UK Government Analysis
I had the joy of going into the secure room and handing over my mobile phone in order to be able to scrutinise the papers the Government has prepared for Brexit. This includes modelling the financial impact of various possible deals that might be agreed post Brexit. I am not allowed to report directly what is in the papers – even although they have been leaked. Suffice to say, there is not one scenario that involves leaving the single market and customs agreement that does not predict a financial loss to the UK economy as a whole and Scotland in particular. Yet, despite this, 62 Tory MPs have demanded leaving the single market and customs union as soon as possible is a must. It is just incredible how blinkered and demanding this cohort are and it does not bode well for the future.
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.