Portcullis House Adventures
So what do we get up to in our lobbying adventures? And what is it like, now that we have a new Government – a government which made a lot of us wonder if there was any hope whatsoever for animals in the UK (and a few other important things like Human Rights and the NHS !)?
Well, today was our first day in Portcullis House (PCH) since the new regime was installed this session, following the General Election. I should perhaps explain that PCH is like an annex to the Houses of Parliament. It’s a big modern glass roofed building which sits across a big main road, the other side of which is the House of Commons (and Lords) building, and you wouldn’t guess that they could be connected, but they are, by a well-trampled tunnel under the road.
This is the place where a lot of the informal lobbying is done, and MPs meet various guests for the exchange of information, over coffees and snacks, as well as chatting with each other on any subject whatsoever. It’s a complete mix of MPs from all parties, plus their assistants and advisors and guests. So if you sit there long enough, all kinds of things can happen!
Anne Brummer and I have become regular visitors over the last 5 years, to the point where the staff regards us pretty much as residents! All through the last 5 years, and in the run-up to the election, we were interacting in this way with many of our friendly MPs – and we’ve always maintained a non-aligned status … we don’t subscribe to any party. This has been very important since we are campaigning for better treatment for animals – and I’ve always maintained that animal rights and animal welfare should be above politics. As we’ve progressed, we’ve absolutely confirmed that view practically because MPs who will fight for animals can be found in all political parties. Times are hard, and animals need all the friends they can get.
It was very interesting today, going back in there, the first time since the election. Of course, some of our old friends have gone – a lot of very nice compassionate Lib Dems and Labour MPs who were swept away by that tide of whatever it was that sent voters scurrying towards the Right in the last days before Election Day. That’s sad, and we miss them. But many of those MPs we supported who are decent and staunchly pro-animals are still there, and now there is a lot of new blood too. Young first-time MPs are making their way into the milieu that is the Commons, and you can see in the eyes of many of them that they’re determined to be courageous and true to their conscience and to their constituents. They will also have some loyalty to the party that they rode in on, and rightly so; but I did sense today that the new breed are determined not to become sheep.
In our Common Decency campaign, we supported candidates of all colours, dependent on how we and the people who participated in our scheme perceived them as people, rather than as party members. There were some animal advocates out there on Facebook and Twitter who found it hard to understand why we would be supporting some Conservatives and Lib Dems when these parties were in favour of bringing back fox hunting and badger culling – the very evils we’d been battling for 6 years. Well, today it was very apparent that our decision was the right one. For today there are many more Conservatives than before – and realistically the only hope for animals in the next few years lies in us finding and encouraging decent Conservative MPs and others who are as dedicated to giving animals a voice as we are. As well as a large number of Labour MPs who are also with us on animal issues. And I’m thrilled to say that we are already seeing very encouraging signs, again, in all parties.
Today we were able to re-connect with most of our core allies. So today, as we congratulated them on being re-elected, we took some photos to share with all of you who have followed us on our journey through Save-Me, Team Badger, and Common Decency.
So here they are! Beginning with our core animal welfare warriors:
Angela Smith and Bri
Angela Smith MP - Penistone & Stocksbridge (Labour)
With the great Angela Smith, MP today. THANKS for your commitment to opposing the return of blood sports.
Bri and Tracey Crouch
Tracey Crouch MP - Chatham and Aylesford (Conservative)
THANKS - opposing repeal of the Hunting Act.
Henry Smith MP - Crawley (Conservative)
Bri, Maria Eagle, and Huw Irranca Davies
Maria Eagle MP - Garston & Halewood & Shadow Environment Secretary (Labour)
and Huw Irranca-Davies MP - Ogmore (Labour)
Caroline Lucas MP - Brighton (Green Party)
We missed out on meeting Caroline Lucas today, but happily, she is very much back in there and will be working her magic again this session. Here she is just pictured just before the election.
Here are some great new friends we made today – all very positive in their determination to make the world (and Parliament) a better place.
Dr. Rupa Huq
Dr. Rupa Huq MP - Ealing Central & Acton (Labour)
Melanie Onn MP - Great Grimsby (Labour)
Naz Shah MP
Naz Shah MP - Bradford West (Labour)
Bri, Angela Smith, and Sharon Hodgson
Sharon Hodgson MP - Washington & Sunderland West (Labour)
And some old friends who continue to help us in various ways.
Sir David Amess
Sir David Amess MP - Southend West (Conservative) - who spoke out in Commons yesterday against repeal.
Always animal welfare first for this Conservative MP
David Morris MP
David Morris MP - Morcambe and Lunesdale (Conservative)
Mark Pritchard MP - The Wrekin (Conservative)
And here’s a lady journalist from The Daily Telegraph I spoke to along with Tracey Crouch, on the subject of the possibility of that “Free Vote on Repeal of the Hunting Act”, which David Cameron has been promising for 5 years or so, coming up, and what would happen if it did. Of course, the Daily Telegraph is known for being very partisan in its reporting, especially in its front page stories, but in every newspaper, there are people who have independent minds. It’s just a question of how much freedom they are given by the editor to express that independence. And how much their work is barnacled by headline writers – who can change the whole tone of an article.
Rosa Prince, Daily Telegraph.
Rosa Prince - Daily Telegraph
So, though I can’t report every conversation we had today, you can sense that at least some of that free discussion in parliament, regardless of ‘colour’ that we dreamed of and advocated in our Common Decency Campaign IS occurring in the new Parliament.
We came away feeling that Parliament may be moving towards something closer to what the public would like it to be – a place where every issue is honestly discussed across the board, with due regard for us, the voters who voted them in.
So … not a bad day’s work, and not quite such a bleak forecast!