Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is this the end of Parliamentary Democracy in Mid Wales ?

Tonight I held a meeting of local public representatives to discuss the proposed new parliamentary boundaries as they effect Montgomeryshire - and at very short notice. For me the proposals are heart breaking. Montgomeryshire has always been my physical and spiritual home. Never lived or had an ancester born anywhere else. I love the place. Around 80 or so people turned up, and it seems they love it as well. With notice and advertising it would have been hundreds. Whats proposed is that Mongomeryshire should be smashed up, and the bits cast randomly on the winds, bringing parliamentary democracy as we know it to an end in Mid Wales. What seems to have happened is that the Boundary Commission did its work in North and South Wales, and then just carved up Mid Wales to make the numbers up everywhere else. When I answered a question, explaining that our area's future MPs may live and have their offices in the Swansea Valley or near the North Wales Coast, with nothing in between, they were 100% horrified. Mid Wales may well have no MP living in the entire area at all. So angry were my audience that they insisted on a vote (unanimous) to ensure I understood just what they were telling me. I promised that I would make public my response to the meeting, and that I would present my constituent's opinion to the Boundary Commission at one of its future public meetings.

One important and worthwhile point emerging from the floor was the damage this will do to the development of Wales as a nation. Since devolution I have been keen on actions which unify the different parts of Wales - e.g. improvements to the A470. Suddenly we see a position where North Wales and South Wales will be represented, but with a great chasm in between in terms of parliamentary representation. The entire room could see just how disastrous the proposals are. And the great worry is that Mid Wales is so often unthinkingly ignored, that no-one outside our area will notice the dangers. I don't suppose this occurred to the Boundary Commissioners.

And it didn't end there. My audience wanted to know what this meant for National Assembly elections. I explained that there was no immediate proposal for change, but that consideration of linking the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies may happen before the next election. The balloon went up. The almost disbelieving message from the floor was "Having totally screwed up the Parliamentary boundaries, you want to totally screw up the Assembly boundaries in the interests of coterminous convenience". And they demanded a vote on that too. 100% again. Russell George AM, who was skulking in the back, left with his arm stuck up his back as far as my arm was stuck up mine. Its wind farms all over again - Mid Wales being sacrificed. And some people still think a politician's life is a doddle.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Is being an MP a proper job?

Dr Phillip Lee has been a Conservative MP for almost 2 years - as have I. He's written an interesting article for today's Mail on Sunday. The gist of it is that as a GP he feels that he takes important decisions at his workplace, but does not feel he does so at Westminster, and is discouraged from being proactive in his work as an MP. After my first year as an MP, I might have agreed with Phillip, but I don't agree now. Its not possible as an MP to directly save lives as a GP does, or say deliver calves and lambs as I used to do as a livestock farmer, but I've learned that MPs can make a real difference - not so much as an individual but as part of a team.

I can think of several areas where through working with others I think I'm making a difference. Not necessarily going to always win, but could well limit serious damage to the nation. First up is what I consider the madness of onshore wind farms. I feel part of a growing outrage amongst MPs over the damage this policy is inflicting - on fuel poverty, business competitiveness and rural landscapes. Already we are seeing more under grounding of grid lines, and I still hope we can defeat the utterly outrageous Mid Wales Connection Project. I know I'm out of line with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change about this - but the whips have never raised this issue with me. I really feel that I am defending the UK for future generations. On its own, this war makes my job as an MP worthwhile.

And there are an increasing number of other issues where I can play a leading role. There's the need to prevent the adoption of 'presumed consent' in respect of organ donation. The assumption and assertion that this will increase availability of organs for donation is unproven. And I can play a positive role in promoting changes which will bring about a real increase in organ donation levels - which is what will actually help those on the waiting list.

And then there is the developing campaign to legalise 'assisted suicide'. We are just about to be faced with the appalling prospect of an orchestrated campaign to change the law - a sensitive and complex issue. But legalisation is a terrible threat to vulnerable people and must be resisted. As Parliamentarians, we are charged with basing legislative change on evidence rather than intuitive responses. I find these battles every bit as challenging as anything else I've ever done. Will have to have a word with Phillip. There is a massive job facing him as an MP.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let not Dementia be treated with 'Shackles'.

Shouldn't get angry when reading a newspaper article. Its just one journalist's interpretation after all. But I did feel hackles rising when reading of an attempt by Cardiff Council to stop an elderly couple taking a cruise holiday together. The Council went so far as to use the courts to frustrate the couple's wishes - eventually applying to the Court of Protection to declare a lack of capacity to make decisions.

Norman Davies and Peggy Ross have been together for 20 years, and have enjoyed many cruise holidays before. Last July Mrs Ross had to be admitted to a care home because she was suffering from dementia, and Mr Davies, who was caring for her, had to go into hospital himself. Cardiff Council decided she could not go on the cruise in October because "she might wander off or fall overboard". It seems that Cardiff Council believes that once someone is diagnosed with dementia, they should no longer enjoy a cruise. Such warped logic probably dictates that dementia sufferers should be deprived of most other activities as well. I suppose they should just be locked up for their own safety. This is the way bureaucracy thinks.

Actually, I'm not particularly critical of the Council - but of the over protective attitude which seems to infect modern life, and smother common sense. Dementia has a cruel impact, which greatly increases risk of accidents. Its a risk that sufferers should be allowed to take. Preventing sufferers from living as normal a life as possible is cruel. Personally, should I ever be afflicted by dementia, let me state clearly now that I would want total freedom to go and do as I want, and would much prefer to die in an accident than be wrapped up in cotton wool, and kept going to suffer the traumatic death that so often faces dementia sufferers. Thank goodness that Judge Crispin Masterman had the sense and compassion to overrule the Council. The report tells us that Norman Davies and Peggy Ross "thoroughly enjoyed their cruise" - and that she was far more mentally active than she would have been has she just stayed in her care home. By the time I reached the end of the article, the happy ending had calmed me down.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Scottish Question

Lots of discussion about the future of the United Kingdom. Mr Alex Salmond tells us he believes that after 300 years, the UK should cease to exist. This is a very big issue for all the people of the UK, and its reassuring to me that we are now engaging with it seriously - and have decided to settle the question by asking the Scottish people whether they want to break from the UK. While I believe this is a matter of legitimate concern to all UK citizens, I accept that it will be decided by Scottish voters alone. Cannot see a practical way around that.

Personally, I do not mind much about the date of the referendum. My contrarian view of the world tells me that if its held in association with the 700th anniversary of Banockburn, it will look cynical, and backfire against those who played the 'cynicism' card. I also feel it should be held on the current voting register, and not extended to 16-18 year olds. Again, such a move would look cynical. But I do care about the question. Or rather that there should be just one question, involving two options. I do not believe in 'preferendums', which are usually advocated by those who are afraid to trust the people. "Do you want Scotland to withdraw from the United Kingdom, and become an independent state - Yes or No" ? That'll do. And the referendum should be binding. If the Scottish people do say Yes, immediate steps should be taken to give effect to the result. No idea what will be agreed, so at present, this is just my personal best guess.

Appeared on Sunday Supplement for a 10 minute chat about it with Paul Murphy this morning. Bethan seemed to want us to talk about the position of Wales, post a Yes vote. Since I do not believe there will be one, it was all a bit hypothetical. Must admit I find it difficult to consider seriously something that's not going to happen. Never been much good at 'What ifs'. Life's too short! But Paul did say he was in favour of an English Parliament - and regional assemblies. The only plus of this huge increase in the number of politicians is that they would be great job creation schemes! Actually, I don't support either of these developments. I simply do not believe its possible to have a workable 'federal UK' with one partner as dominant as would be England. Even if we were to have English MPs dealing with 'England only' issues on a Friday, I don't think it would work. (E.g. my constituents health issues are dealt with by the NHS in England). And regional assemblies would do nothing worthwhile - and both cost and confuse. But I see that the BBC has given Paul's comments a lot of coverage.

The Scottish Question is not new. What is new is that Scotland has a First Minister who wants to withdraw his country from the UK for the first time. And he's a charismatic politician, with an attractive way with words, who slides away from serious discussion like a tickled trout. But in England this 'cheekie chappie' image is beginning to look like smugness, and arrogance. The English are beginning to ask whether they really should be putting up with this - and that they might be better off without the Scots. The English are wrong about this. Alex Salmond will over-reach (he may have done already), and he will not be there for ever. I fully expect him to be replaced by someone who wants to work within the UK, so that together, the nations that make up the UK can continue to achieve more than if we travel down the path of separation.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Parliamentary Boundaries for Mid Wales.

Several people been asking about the Boundary Commission's recommendations for new Welsh Parliamentary constituencies. Here's my first crack at explaining what its all about.

The main 'driver' behind change was the 2009 'expenses' scandal, when it was revealed that several MPs had been abusing the allowances system. The public were disgusted, and there was a widespread opinion that the number of MPs should be reduced, and the cost of 'government' should be reduced as well. Political parties usually try to respond to what the people want. The Conservative Party included a commitment to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 585 in its 2010 manifesto. The Liberal Democrats included a commitment to reduce to 500. All Conservative and Lib Dem candidates were elected on this basis.

Soon after the Coalition Gov't was formed a bill was presented to reduce the number of MP's to 600, Minister's salaries were reduced by 10%, MP's salaries were frozen for 5 years, and a new independently controlled system of allowances introduced. It was hugely controversial as it proceeded through its Parliamentary stages, but was eventually passed into law. I voted in support of change, as all of us had promised to do before being elected. Generally, politicians keeping promises is a good principle. The new Act also included 'equalisation' of constituency sizes, which had a bigger impact in Wales because of a longstanding 'over-representation' of Welsh MPs. Difficult to argue for 'special treatment' for Wales, especially since the National Assembly has now been given law making powers. The entirely 'independent' Boundary Commission was given responsibility to decide on the new constituency boundaries. It's recommedations for Wales were announced on Wed. of this week.

Must admit I've never been happy with any of this, but its what we promised. I guessed that it might have an unwelcome effect on my constituency, Montgomeryshire. Its turned out to be worse than I expected and from a personal standpoint, I am hugely disappointed. Our Montgomeryshire 'campaign team' put in so much work transforming my home area from one the safest Lib Dem seats in Britain into a reasonably solid Conservative seat. But I cannot, with integrity, challenge the principle of boundary change. Does not stop me challenging the detail though. And I'm going to.

I have today discussed the issue with my Association. We have agreed on certain actions. Firstly we are going that we are going to seek a comprehensive reconsideration of the proposals, because of the destruction of the historic constituency of Montgomeryshire. Secondly, because we realise that our first objective may not succeed, we will seek reconsideration of the detail - particularly between the proposed South Powys constituency, and the Glyndwr and North Powys constituency. It makes no sense to us at all. If Welshpool and Newtown must be in separate constituencies, we think that the villages in between should be included with the towns to which they naturally orientate. School catchments seem to us to be a good guide. Next week we will contact the relevant community councils to seek their views, and when received will forward them to the Boundary Commission, with our support. We will also suggest a change of name to Gyndwr and North Montgomeryshire, and to Brecon and Radnor and South Montgomeryshire.

Inevitably, I was asked what my personal hopes/intentions would be if the proposals went through, roughly as proposed. Very difficult for me to be definitive, because until 2015 I will represent the whole of Montgomeryshire to the best of my ability. And we won't know where the precise boundary will be for many months. But when I was pushed, I said that since my, and my family's personal and business lives had been based on Welshpool, I would probably seek my party's nomination to contest the 'Northern' seat. It will be a heartbreaking choice for me, and I feel unhappy writing these words. There's still a bit of me that hopes I will never have to make the choice.

The final matter we discussed was the possible realignment of the National Assembly for Wales' electoral arrangements with these new Parliamentary boundaries. As a PPS, I do not think I should express an opinion on this issue, but our Association Chair made an interesting point today. Perhaps the National Assembly has a closer link with Local Government than it does with the Westminster Gov't, and that it shouldn't be assumed that co-terminosity is the most effective arrangement. Anyway, this is a matter for my colleague, Russell George AM, and his colleagues in Cardiff Bay. Could be a lively discussion. This is perhaps the saddest post I've written during the 9 years I've been blogging. So we're going out to dinner to 'smother' my sorrows.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Language of the Welsh Assembly

Wales on Sunday covered infamous Welsh political 'gaffes' today - but missed out the funniest one that I remember. And it also missed out the best bit of Lib Dem AM, Mick Bates giving the Presiding Officer 'the finger'. There wasn't much doubt in our minds but that Mick was expressing a negative view on one of the PO's judgements - but his official response was that he was explaining to Rhodri Glyn Thomas how to press his voting button !

But back to my old colleague AM, Peter Rogers, who featured in the gaffes list as a supporting actor in Rhodri Morgan's gaffe. Peter was reaching the sort of crescendo only he could when he overheard Rhodri saying "He is talking ball***s". Unfortunately the official record scribes overheard - even if Rhodri challenged the accuracy, claiming he'd said it was "talking ball***s time". Even more unfortunately Peter overheard and roared across the chamber "I am not talking ball***s First Minister."

But a week or so later Peter did even better. Again he was at full throttle, and laying into the environment movement in general, when he dismissed them as "The Green Willy Brigade". Took some of the ladies in the chamber a good while to recover. And then there was Dr Dai Lloyd telling the chamber that the drug, Viagra should not be dispensed 'willy-nilly'. Plenty more where they came from. I'm sure nothing like this happens now that the National Assembly has law making powers!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Defending the Welsh Language.

The single special characteristic that makes Wales unique is her own Welsh Language. It is economically, socially and culturally valuable (priceless even). It should unite the people who live in Wales. But it doesn't, though it is a far less contentious issue than it has been in the past. There have been bitter arguments over the last 100 years as Yr Iaith Cymraeg followed gradually the path to oblivion trodden by probably thousands of other minority languages across the world - and then as it 'stabilised' and achieved a limited recovery more recently. This was largely a result of actions taken by Conservative Governments at Westminster, while they were being shouted at, and given no credit by the language 'protest movement' in Wales.

Debate about the protection and promotion of 'minority' languages has always taken place inside and outside statutory authorities. In Wales, the noisiest voice of protest for 50 years has been Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society). The catalyst for the formation of Cymdeithas was a speech by a right wing Nationalist named Saunders Lewis, and ever since, Cymdeithas have protested and thrown the crockery around a bit, and very importantly been noticed. Must admit this sort of behaviour has never been my scene (until 'government' decided that Mid Wales was to sacrificed at the altar of wind farm madness), but I always had a sneaking support for Cymdeithas (better add for safety sake "when conducted within the law"). Actually, family members of mine have been involved. During the last 50 years, there has also been development of 'mainstream' opinion in support of the Welsh Language. Its difficult to know what influence any protest movement has when there is a much wider support for its objectives. Often its difficult for 'authority' to act as it wants to, when a violent protest movement is calling for action.

I thought a lot about this issue as MPs debated new funding and governance arrangements for S4C through 2011. I felt the changes was a real threat to an independent future for S4C, and resolved to become closely involved in the debate (considered by colleagues to be a 'brave' decision) - which involved being a member of committee which examined the Public Bodies Bill. What I found was that a huge number of people wanted to instuct me about what I should do(had over 1000 emails) but almost no-one wanted to actually discuss the most effective way forward. I met Cymdeithas representatives, but never really got around to any discussion about a realistic way forward. It was almost as if I was expected to become the political wing of Cymdeithas - which would have reduced my influence to nil. I acted always in the interests of the Language (S4C) as I saw it, and in the end a pretty satisfactory outcome was achieved. There were others who were great (notably Elan Clos Stephens) and my Conservative Welsh MP colleagues. And there were some who were bl***** awful (notably the S4C Board). When reflecting afterwards, I concluded that despite all the huffing and puffing, Cymdeithas yr Iaith had no discernible impact whatsoever on the outcome.

Reason I comment on this issue now is that I've been reading about the thoughts of Cardiff academic, Dr Simon Brooks, and reported comments of Prof Laura McAllister about the need for a non-statutory 'Welsh Language body which can act as a think tank about the future, and engage with politicians in Cardiff Bay and Westminster - a sort of IWA for the Language I suppose. This is an interesting thought. Personally, I do not believe that a body which is built on 'protest' can do that - and that's not meant to be negative about Cymdeithas at all. I think I need to talk to Dr Simon Brooks, because if the progress we have made over recent years is to continue, there must be constant vigilance. Luckily I don't think huge numbers read my blog these days, or I could have a few more emails winging my way.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Assisted Suicide ? Was that it.

I'd been expecting totally one-sided wall-to-wall coverage of Lord Falconer's report on legalising assisted suicide today. With others I'd been preparing for this 'launch' for weeks - and was concerned that the coverage would be skewed in favour of the report, without much reference to the opposing arguments. That is why I, and others tried to generate some balance into the debate prior to its publication. That's why I've been posting blogs about the issue and using Twitter and Facebook to direct readers towards them.

Must admit the coverage has mostly been fair. Inevitably, the headlines have been about claims made by the Lord Falconer's report, but almost every article has carried rebuttal material as well. The whole thing seems to me to have fallen a bit flat - which is exactly what it deserved. The blatant attempt to present a campaigning tactic as a 'Commission of Independent Experts' did not fool many in the end.

Though I'd prepared myself to play a part in the 'rebuttal' exercise, I finished up not doing much at all. Just an 'appearance' on Radio Cymru at 7.10 this morning. I was invited to appear on Sky News to debate the issue with Dr Evan Harris, but I was on the top of a Cambrian Mountain above Pantperthog when I got the call to be in a studio two hours later. But I did hear some excellent work from others in my 'team'.

Apropos my Post Cynta slot this morning, I was not that happy with it. And its not just that my Welsh is not quite up to coping with a complex sensitive issue, where nuance matters, but the way the producers set it up. They did the same to me on Post Prynhawn when I agreed an interview on 'presumed consent' a month ago. What happens is that there's a package based on a very difficult emotive case, which attracts every listener's sympathy - and then they turn to me as the big bad Conservative MP who has to explain how I could possibly be so cruel. I always try to accommodate Radio Cymru if I can (because I've heard others refuse to appear and they have a programme to make) and I'm also nvery keen to develop my Welsh Language competence. But I'm not sure I'm getting a fair crack at the moment.

Anyway, its not a time for grousing. I feel I've been part of an exercise in saving future generations of vulnerable people from the obscenity of a law legalising doctors to prescribe them drugs which would kill them. Its the sort of feeling that makes politics very satisfying.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The 'not independent' commission on assisted suicide

I have already challenged the idea that Lord Falconer's 'commission' on assisted dying (note my refusal to use capital letters) should be referred to as a commission or that it should be considered to be in any way 'independent'. I'm told that this 'commission' was suggested by the pressure group, Dignity in Dying which used to be known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. I just thought it would be helpful to readers of this blog if I ran through just who these 'independent' and 'open-minded' 'commissioners' are.

1) Lord Falconer - Chair and longstanding campaigner for the legalisation of assisted suicide, who attempted to legislate during the last Parliament.

2) Baroness Murphy of Aldgate - who supported the attempts by Lord Falconer to change the law in the last Parliament.

3)Baroness Young of Old Stone - who also supported the attempts by Lord Falconer to change the law in the last Parliament.

4)Penny Mordaunt MP - a colleague of mine who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on 'Choice at the End of Life'. I believe Dignity in Dying acts as secretariat to this APPG.

5)Stephen Duckworth - Chair of Disability Matters Limited, which I'm told is a private business which ceased trading in 2010. Despite all the major disability rights organisations being opposed to a change in the law, Stephen Duckworth is a rare supporter from the disability movement.

6)Prof. Sam Almedzai - a palliative medicine specialist, who supports legalisation of assisted suicide, even though I'm told that 95% of such specialists are opposed to a change in the law.

7)Dr Carole Dacombe - another palliative medicine specialist. Another of the 5%.

8)Lord Blair of Boughton - another firm public supporter of legalisation of assisted suicide.

9)Sir Graeme Catto - a retired renal specialist who has spoken publicly about his support for assisted suicide.

10)Dame Denise Platt - views not known.

11)Rev. Dr. James Woodward - views not known.

12)Celia Grandison-Markey - views not known.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the opinions that the above hold. We are considering a highly sensitive and complex issue. Dignity in Dying is an effective and genuine campaigning group. Several of my friends are supporters of it. Individuals hold strong opinions on all sides. But there is no way that the above group of people can be regarded as 'independent'.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Introduction to The Falconer Report

Another three days until we see the 'Falconer Report' prepared by the Commission on Assisted Dying, which Lord Falconer chairs. His Lordship has written an introductory piece in today's Telegraph, which was rather more balanced than I'd expected. Impression I get from reading it is that the issue does not seem quite as straightforward to the advocates of legalising Assisted Suicide as they expected it to be.

Members of the Commission have travelled to Switzerland where the Report will state that a total of 160 UK residents have gone to commit suicide. They did not like what they saw. Lord Falconer also refers to the experience of Holland, which I know little about yet. And Oregon where we know that since assisted suicide was legalised the number of cases has quadrupled, and is now between 1000-1200 per year. It seems that the assisted suicide in Oregon involves the taking of around 90 tablets.

The issue that the Commission is supposed to have looked at is whether the current law works - imperfect as it is. The Director of Public Prosecutions thinks it works. Since Keir Starmer 'clarified' where he would sanction prosecution two years ago, there have been 31 cases of assisted suicide (where the law has been broken) but not one prosecution where the 'assister' was thought to have acted with compassion. The DPP's 'guidelines' indicate that where a prospective defendant was motivated wholly by compassion, it is unlikely that a prosecution should be brought. The current system outlaws an action yet frequently allows it to take place unpunished - rather an odd interpretation I agree. But it works. Its highly unlikely that I could be persuaded to the legalisation of assisting suicide but I'm looking forwards to reading Lord Falconers Report on Thursday.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

What makes a 'Commission'.

Just read today's Guardian report about the publication on Thursday, 5th Jan. of the 'Commission on Assisted Dying'. The Guardian describes this as "a major independent report". I really don't think that's a very accurate description. Even using the word, 'Commission' is questionable, because that normally implies something commissioned by a statutory authority. This report has been been arranged by interests which support a change in the law. The group which has produced it has been chaired by Lord Falconer, whom the Guardian describes as "a former lord chancellor". Accurate - but makes no mention that he's been a longstanding campaigner to legalise assisted suicide. Lord Falconer is a clever and jovial fellow, but 'independent' he is not.

Also worth noting that this 'independent' commission is being funded by Sir Terry Pratchett, who is also a very good man. But Sir Terry Pratchett has been a declared supporter of legalising assisted suicide in a very public way for years. The Guardian quoted Baroness Warnock at length, who is another very public longstanding supporter of changing the law - and it makes no mention that the the Director of Public Prosecutions told the commission that the law currently works well. I also believe that the BMA and the medical royal colleges refused to give evidence, except in writing to express opposition to a law change. I guess all this tells us just how 'independent' the Guardian is going to be.

I'm rather looking forward to reading this report. Its an issue of great interest to me. But I do not pretend to be 'independent'. I do not support a change in the law to legalise assisted suicide. I am not impartial, and on Thursday, after reading the report, I will say why. If anyone asks me that is.

New Year's Eve on the Terrace.

Last night's fireworks display on and around the London Eye was an amazing experience. Never been before, and never seen anything like it before. Reported to have been 500,000 people there. First shock was walking over Westminster Bridge from our flat to the House of Commons or more accurately trying to. We set off just after 9.00. It took about 25 minutes to cover the 300 yds over the bridge, where we encountered a 20' high wall and a police controlled no-go zone 20 yds wide. Showed my identification to a police officer and he just laughed. No way through. Another 25 minutes to retreat the 300 yds to where we had started - and to walk down to Lambeth Bridge and cross there instead. Never seen so much human flesh crammed in together. Accidentally stood on one woman and kicked two others who had decided to sit down. Saw only one fight. Reminded me of one of those penguin nesting sites that David Attenbrough films. Anyway, we finally made it to Black Rod's Entrance, and the Terrace in time for the display.

And what a display it was. Loudspeaker's all over two bridges and the Embankment. Hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes parked on the Thames. Could see a barbecue in full glory on one of them. And then the fireworks started. Our little faces were beaming in wonderment. Inevitable, my Welsh hill sheep farmer gene was asking me how much such an extravaganza would have cost (at least a million for 11 minutes I reckoned). But another told me that the world was watching. If you're going to put on a show, it should be a good one. And it was just brilliant. Jeremy Hunt was right in yesterday's Telegraph when he said that we must really go for it and put on an Olympic Show to dazzle the world.

Last night was a great perk of my job as an MP. We payed £25 per ticket (which I think went to charities chosen by the Speaker). A fellow MP did tell me that next year, the Terrace may be hired out to corporate sponsors, paying £200 per head. Probably pack 500 on - which makes a cool £100,000. The question to be asked though is whether we want to demean our Parliament by renting it out to the corporate market. I suppose the Queen lets people walk around Buck House for a fee, so why not I suppose. Whatever a great night enjoyed by all.