After a couple of years doing his best to pretend he had nothing to do with the Blairite factionalists in Progress (he did: he was deputy chair), and a year after he was part of the “chicken coup” of Labour MPs who tried to oust the democratically elected leader of their party, Steve Reed OBE has shown his true colours.
“No one party has a complete monopoly on wisdom. You absolutely need to listen to other people’s experiences. And a lot of issues aren’t that partisan.”
That is a sample of what Reed, the MP for Lambeth South/Croydon North (delete to taste), told a journalist from The Observer for a news review supplement piece at the weekend on politicians who do have chums on the “other” side.
For the purposes of the article, Reed was paired off with Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire and apparently, someone whose company he regularly enjoys over a curry or a visit to the Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho.
There was a connection before Allen was elected to parliament in 2015. Allen’s husband, Phil, was a best friend at school to David Reed, Steve Reed’s brother. The newspaper relates that as far as Allen was concerned, “The political differences between them ‘didn’t occur to me – he was just a friend’.”
Reed’s view is reported as: “I knew you were a Tory MP, but you were never a standard Tory MP.” Reed, according to the reporter, laughed as he made that remark.
The reporter further notes: “As it turns out, it’s quite difficult to get Allen and Reed to pinpoint an issue on which they disagree.”
It may be informative, then, to see the parliamentary voting record, then, of the MP for Cambridgeshire South. According to TheyWorkForYou.com:
- Heidi Allen this year voted to set the main central government grant to local government for 2017-18 at a level 44 per cent lower than it was set for 2016-17.
- She voted for the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
- Heidi Allen voted for the support of 40 per cent of those entitled to vote in a ballot for industrial action by key fire service workers to be required for such action to be lawful.
- Heidi Allen voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998.
- She voted against plans to save the steel industry including fast-tracking infrastructure projects requiring large amounts of steel.
- And she voted against a principle of the Government not borrowing to fund day-to-day spending.
- Heidi Allen has generally voted against a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK.
- Heidi Allen has consistently voted against investigations into the Iraq war.
- She voted in favour of cutting universal credit benefits for many people in paid work.
- Heidi Allen voted against calling on the Government to ensure women and protected groups are not disproportionally impacted by tax and benefit changes, and against publication of a gender equality strategy to improve the position of women.
- Heidi Allen has never voted against the Tory Government whip in this parliament.
“We don’t usually get into the deeper philosophical questions, that’s not what our friendship is,” Reed told The Observer.
There is sometimes a justification for cross-party pragmatism. Allen is Reed’s co-sponsor for “Seni’s Law” a private member’s bill that is being put forward on November 3.
Reed’s bill is named after a Thornton Heath constituent, Seni Lewis, a mental health patient who died in 2011 after he was pinned face-down by 11 police officers until he stopped breathing. “We must stop the use of excessive force that killed Seni and too many other mental health patients like him,” Reed has said.
There have been nearly 6,000 deaths in prison, police custody and mental health detention in England and Wales since 1990, around half of them related to mental health issues.
“Without cross-party support, that bill will not go through,” Reed said, suggesting that there are 300-plus MPs in the House of Commons who would vote down a measure which has, as its core aim, the prevention of unlawful killings.
Next week: Chris Philp on how he and Dennis Skinner regularly go for a drink together.
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