The week at Westminster: More war, and more MPs’ holidays

Former MP ANDREW PELLING reviews the past seven days in parliament for Croydon’s representatives

The only Croydon MP to deliver a full speech in the chamber last week was Richard Ottaway.

Ottaway: a secret fan of Chairman Mao

With the Conservative MP for Croydon South (not that he lives in the constituency) holding the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Ottaway often gets called for foreign affairs debates. This week, Ottaway took a particularly bellicose stand on the matter of Iran.

In what would be seen abroad as a deft piece of English understatement, Ottaway described the Iranians as “tough so-and-sos”. Harking back to a by-gone era of gun boat diplomacy, Ottaway said he was keen to keep the threat of a strike against Iran on the table.

In doing so, Ottaway turned to a most unlikely source for a Conservative MP, none other than Chairman Mao. Ottaway apparently likes Mao’s approach to diplomacy: “peace comes from the end of the barrel of a gun”.

Ottaway felt that negotiation with Iran has proved to be ineffective. As a former Navy man and notorious as a keen sailor, Ottaway assured the House that the Iranians were not capable of closing the straits of Hormuz, a piece of information which the intelligence services may have preferred not to be shared publicly.

Ottaway concluded that “an attack might be the least bad option” as far as Iran is concerned, apparently overlooking the questionable success rates of the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps he is hoping for third time lucky?

Also on foreign policy Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central’s MP, intervened on a speech by Lee Scott, a Conservative stalwart campaigner on outrages in Sri Lanka. Barwell asked whether there was a need for a fully independent inquiry into the abuse meted out to Tamils by the Sri Lankan government.

Barwell also ventured into the dangerous area of finance, congratulating his own government on the low rate of interest on government gilts. Perhaps Barwell forgot that £325 billion of funny money is conjured out of nowhere by the Bank of England mainly to buy UK government debt, so artificially depressing the interest rates.

Unlike Malcolm Wicks, the Labour MP for Croydon North, Croydon’s Tories Barwell and Ottaway both voted to take up to £750 a year off disabled war widows and other categories of disabled people who have a spare bedroom in their council or Housing Association property.

Croydon’s two Conservative MPs also voted to give themselves an extra 11 days holiday in 2012. After a brief attempt by the Conservative-led government to match their pre-election rhetoric about decreasing the number of days off that MPs get, Barwell and Ottaway voted in favour of a motion to give themselves 150 days off from Parliamentary sittings in 2012.

That means that more even time will be spent away from Parliament by our MPs, up from 139 days in 2011, the same number of days off under the previous Labour administration, which the Tories used to characterise as wrong. Malcom Wicks was the only Croydon MP to vote against the holiday bonanza, which was carried by a majority of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, although two Tories voted against.

MPs’ Votes this week: 10

Votes cast
Barwell 5 out of 10
Ottaway 7 out of 10
Wicks 4 out of 10

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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