As I wrote in a previous blog, the MP for Christchurch, Christopher Chope was one of two men who used the convoluted processes and protocols of Parliament to stifle debate and ultimate derail a Bill that I believe is very important. The challenge of revenge evictions seems a world away from those of us who live in a home that we either own outright, or that the Bank owns whilst we repay the mortgage. However it is a very present threat to the increasing numbers of people who live in rented accommodation and in settings where the landlord is not terribly good at maintaining his or her property. Many disreputable landlords including some who actually sit in the House of Commons as MPs would oppose the introduction of the Bill proposed by Sarah Teather. The decision by Chope and his colleague Philip Davies to philibuster and talk out the debate shows how little regard these men have for vulnerable people across the nation in general and in their constituencies in particular. Our constitution should protect the weak and vulnerable, not rich and opiniated people like Chope and Davis.
It was interesting to hear the voice of Mr Chope again this morning on this weeks Radio 4 ‘Week in Westminster’ when he was asked to give his views on the issue of English Devolution. Chope is one of the many Tory MPs who are unhappy at the idea of Scottish voters benefiting from more of their power being transferred from Westminster to Holyrood, until such time as the same sort of arrangement can be made for English voters such as those in Christchurch. That frustration at its heart shows that Chope believes that only people like him should be permitted to take decisions that affect Scots wanting Westminster to diminish or tenants who want to have greater protection in their homes. He made his argument regarding devolution on matters of process and balance within our national constitutions, that the Scots should receive no more devolution until the English benefit from a balancing devolution. Never mind that all of the party leaders made open promises to the voters in Scotland without any caveats or restrictions, or that during previous years of imbalance in our constitution that MPs like Chope have done nothing about English devolution. The lack of constitutional symmetry is certainly something that needs to be attended to, but it need not be a barrier to greater Scottish devolution. Equally although Chope and Davies broke no rules in their philibustering, they cannot seriously believe it was an appropriate use of our constitution whatever their views of the Teather Bill that other MPs wanted to debate. On 5th December the two men spoke for 150 minutes talking out the Bill, they represented a mere 3% of the MPs present and every one of the other MPs support the Bill. Mr Chope spoke this morning about devolution, citing the need for a clear democratic mandate. Despite this he seems to have been willing to ignore such promises when it suits him. He supported the reorganisation of the health service which we were promised would not happen and opposed the reform of the House of Lords which the Government promised would happen.
Mr Chope spoke a great deal of nonsense on 5th December in Westminster, indeed his colleague was forced to stop by the Speaker after an hour because he was incoherent. If the BBC want to provide Chope with even more airtime they need to challenge his own democratic credentials following his decision to waste the time of 60 other MPs along with the rest of the Parliamentary estate a mere week ago. He has potentially destroyed a Bill that was intended to protect families who are faced with a dilemma, to report problems in their homes this Christmas and risk eviction or put up with the problems at a time when our TV screens are promoting an ideal of family comfort. It seems unlikely that many MPs have ever been faced with such a dilemma and most of them own several homes, all of which are well maintained and very comfortable in large part due to our own support.