News from Westminster
Who said “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”? [answer at the bottom] These are wise words and in recent months we seem to have lost the ability to disagree well and to argue without it spilling over into something more.
As I write, there are many news reports about some of the abuse that MPs have been receiving, both on social media and outside Parliament. Very sadly, although all MPs receive abuse, it seems to me that it is targeted towards female MPs in particular. We are very lucky in Britain that we are a democracy, and one of the rights that we have is that of free speech. There are many countries in the world where protesting and disagreeing with the government can land you in prison. And so, it is absolutely right that within the law people should be able to say what they think, but it is unacceptable for anyone to be threatened or intimidated as a result of their views. Expressing opinions must never tip over into abuse and violence.
The House of Commons does not usually sit on a Friday. But last month there was an emergency Business Motion allowing a sitting Friday to debate Brexit. I spoke on that day and the importance of language and tone was stressed. Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames set the tone, and it was a remarkably constructive debate – perhaps because of the more unusual step of sitting on a Friday.
Another strength of our democracy, is that anyone can come and visit Parliament in person. If you would like to do so, you can book a mid-week free democratic access tour through your MP, me! This is available to all UK residents. The tour route varies and these bookings must be done in advance. If you want to watch a debate, you can turn up and watch from the public gallery. This is free, although you may have to queue for more popular debates. If you want to experience the spectacle that is Prime Minister’s Questions on a Wednesday, you will need tickets. Please do contact me if you would like to do so. Tickets are limited, and not always available, but I will do my best to get you in! There are also audio and guided tours of the building on Saturdays, which are cheaper if booked in advance on the Parliament website, with 1 child free with each paying adult.
If you would like to visit Parliament or have an issue that you need help with, please do get in touch; email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact my office on 01202 624216. You can also follow what I’ve been doing on Twitter @Michael4mdnp or Facebook www.facebook.com/michael4MDNP
Answer - Often attributed directly to Voltaire, but in fact was written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire.