View from Westminster 25th Novemer 2016

From time to time, misunderstanding abound about how things work. This often leads to a run of letters to local MPs, and two such events have happened recently.

The first concerns President Elect Trump and who will be the British Ambassador to Washington. UKIP caretaker leader Nigel Farage has been hot on the Trump campaign trail and as a result has struck up a bit of a friendship with the new president. Speculation has been rife as to what role Farage might play in forging new links between the British government and the new presidential team. This week, President Elect Trump suggested that Nigel Farage could be the new British Ambassador.

There is no role for Farage to play. British Ambassadors are appointed by The Queen, having been advised by the government. In any practical sense, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are the ones who are fully appraised of all the potential candidates. And even in a wider context, the UK government has plenty of contacts with The White House, so Farage will not play any part. That said, of course, Donald Trump is perfectly free to give Farage a job if he wishes and frankly I can see why it is an appealing job, having hung up his political boots in the UK, for Farage to cross the Atlantic. And good luck to him.

The second misunderstanding surrounds that of the role of votes and select committee members. I have had a few letters grumbling about my participating in a vote for Keith Vaz MP to become a member of the Justice Select Committee. Keith is a well-known Labour MP who is currently undergoing some local trouble with regards, allegedly, some prostitutes and recreational pharmaceuticals. This led him to stand down as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. His nomination to be on the Justice Committee was challenged and so it went to a vote.

The principle at stake here is one of fairness. Places on committees are allocated to political parties and, in this case, the Labour Party decided amongst itself that Keith was the best man. In challenging this appointment, the idea that the Labour Party should be allowed to pick its own members was under challenge. I have no axe to grind either way against Keith, but I will stand firm on the principle that Labour must choose its own select committee members.