Belfast Telegraph

Chris Moncrieff: Let MPs go skiing by all means... that way they will cause less trouble

 

Parliament has a busy time ahead with legislation to be passed in the run-up to the March 29 Brexit deadline
Parliament has a busy time ahead with legislation to be passed in the run-up to the March 29 Brexit deadline

By Chris Moncrieff

The ski slopes of Europe will be strangely bereft of British politicians this month as MPs have had their February half-term holiday cancelled to enable Parliament to complete as much of the pre-Brexit business as it can before D-Day: March 29.

But, given the way MPs have handled (or rather, mishandled) this crisis so far, cynics are tempted to suggest the holiday should go ahead - giving mischief-making MPs fewer opportunities to make a bad situation that much worse.

Equally, the Government desperately needs enough time to complete all the legislation required to enable Brexit to happen at all.

A substantial number of MPs seem to have forgotten their promise that they would abide by the result of the Brexit referendum whatever the outcome.

This is more than simply the forgetting of a casually-made undertaking; it is a defiant and dishonourable failure to keep a solemn promise.

So don't expect any improvement in the disgraceful behaviour of a number of MPs who would probably be doing far less damage on those Alpine ski slopes.

There seems to be something seriously amiss with parliamentary rules that allow an MP serving a prison sentence to continue receiving her MP's salary while serving time behind bars.

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But that is precisely what is happening in the case of Fiona Onasanya, who was jailed for lying to the police and perverting the course of justice, yet is still able to continue receiving her pay. That is totally ludicrous.

Onasanya is free to return to Parliament once she has completed her sentence. If she had been sentenced to a year or more she would have been automatically expelled from the Commons. She has already been expelled from the Labour Party and the only way she can be excluded from Parliament is by a system involving aggrieved constituents.

That would create a by-election in one of the traditionally most marginal seats in the country, Peterborough.

But so long as the feeble parliamentary rules allow her to receive her salary, when she so obviously cannot perform her parliamentary duties, there is no incentive for Onasanya to resign.

The sooner this glaring loophole is closed the better. What is keeping them?

The British justice system is hailed as the best in the world. Yet it ill-served Sir Christopher Meyer.

Sir Christopher, who is in his 70s and is a former British ambassador in Washington and Moscow, was viciously attacked by a teenage thug at a London Underground station and left unconscious with horrific injuries, which, according to one witness, made him look as though he had been in a war zone.

Yet the judge in the subsequent court proceedings virtually took pity on the assailant, because he had not offended before and because he had shown remorse.

The shocking outcome was that the youth was spared jail: an appalling travesty of justice. He apparently wept in court on his mother's shoulder. The poor darling.

It seems inconceivable that the perpetrator of such a grave attack on an elderly man should escape without a custodial sentence.

I trust that the Lord Chief Justice or the Attorney General will issue some harsh words to those who sit on the bench and who so blatantly fail to fulfil their public duty.

I suppose governments have to cover all manner of contingencies, but the plans to evacuate the Queen to a place of safety in the event of a no-deal Brexit disturbances is seen by some as a little far-fetched.

I recall King George VI staying put in the capital during the London Blitz. In fact, he and Queen Elizabeth (the present Queen's mother) visited and gave succour to many of the victims in the worst-hit areas.

And Margaret Thatcher went a stage further. She lamented the fact that she could not sail with the task force to fight in the Falklands War. What a woman!

The volume of nuisance calls and cold calls - most of them designed to empty your bank account by fraudulent means - does not appear to have abated despite the Government's threats and warnings of severe punishment for those caught in the act.

I was once told by someone who worked in 10 Downing Street how they deal with weirdos and others who make unwelcome calls.

The person who receives such a call merely cuts himself off while he is actually talking, on the invariably correct assumption that the caller would not believe for one minute that someone talking on the phone would actually cut himself off while in full flow.

Ingenious? I should say so.

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