Friday, June 24, 2005

At last! He can speak!


Perhaps my MP, Andrew Slaughter, has been reading this blog (dream on, Oscar), for he has finally made his maiden speech in the Commons.

As convention dictates he introduces us to the constituency, in a lengthy description which anyone could have looked up in a geopolitical text but which is nevertheless mildly interesting. I did agree with this assertion:
What distinguishes my constituency most—and is, in my opinion, its finest feature—is the sheer diversity of its population. There are 50 major first languages spoken there, and another 75 significant minority communities. It has third or fourth generation Irish and Caribbean residents, Polish and other eastern European communities, Bengali and other Asian groups, and Arab and African nationalities, including a large Somali population. Almost every country and continent is represented. As a model for integrated living, I recommend it.
Quite rightly, he goes on to point out that:
The view of London, and west London in particular, as a wealthy region is not an accurate one and it needs to be challenged, particularly in regard to allocating public funds. It is more true to say that this is an area of extremes—of wealth and poverty, and of opportunity and barriers to success. That the cost of living is so high and the stress on services so great is in itself a reason why those who struggle have a lower quality of life than they might do elsewhere.
Just as Slaughter is hitting his stride, he stops. He's been talking in the debate on the Regulation of Financial Services (Land Transactions) Bill: a dull-looking Bill, the major point of interest being legislation to improve the availability of sharia-compliant home loans ("murabaha" products - which are regulated by the Financial Services Authority - and "ijara" products - which are not, until this Bill passes) for Muslims. It's a pretty uncontroversial Bill (anyone who knows different, please contact me), and a safe place to make a maiden speech. No doubt he picked it because of the significant proportion of Muslim voters in the constituency (most of whom live up the Shepherd's Bush end of the seat, if the shop fronts along Goldhawk Road are anything to judge by).

Having shown that he is capable of the power of speech, I do hope Andrew Slaughter will be making some significant contributions to Commons debates, working in the interests of his constituents and not just toeing the party line. His neighbour, Greg Hands (Tory MP for Hammersmith & Fulham), has been tabling written questions left, right and centre about education in the borough, crime and policing figures and, of course, Charing Cross Hospital. Whatever his drawbacks, his energy in this regard has been admirable (if perhaps leaning towards over the top). I hope Slaughter will be challenging the government over many of the controversial policies it seems determined to put into place, despite its weak mandate. He's already let a few opportunities go by. I'll be watching, and of course I'll update you all.


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