September 2019 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley

The House of Commons Chamber is a lively place, where Members on all sides often feel passionately about the issues being discussed and there are longstanding procedures in place to ensure the chamber remains respectful. However the way in which some senior colleagues have behaved of late is not befitting of the high office that they hold. Some behaviour has been insulting to colleagues and is far from the usual respectful way in which the business of the House operates. I am also dismayed at the recent behaviour of the Speaker which again is unprecedented. The Speaker should be politically impartial, and a key task is to maintain orderly debate in the Chamber. The habit of the current Speaker of insulting MPs has not set a good example. Both in the House and outside I have always maintained that people should be able to disagree without resorting to personal insult and abuse. We are all human and none of us gets it right all of the time but I am pleased when I can have robust discussion with constituents where we disagree but find no need to be rude to one another.

One of the problems with recent debate is the way in which people of different sides of the argument have been labelled and stereotyped. This is true both inside and outside of the House. I know from letters and emails sent to me that there are many complexities to views held and reasons for retaining or relinquishing our membership of the EU. There are many gracious people who seek to understand the view of others and indeed there are those who will only listen to voices which speak the same view as them. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury was caught up in a problem with language when he said “We have to take seriously the fact that the majority voted Leave. We may not like it, but that is democracy; and that means we have to stop whingeing about it and do something about reuniting the country.” When criticised for the words ’stop whingeing’ he apologised and said “What I was aiming to say was that in this political situation, just talking in increasingly hostile language does us no good. Nor is it helpful to only look backwards.” I think this is a constructive reflection from the Archbishop.

Over the summer period I spent quite a bit of time knocking on doors in various communities across the constituency simply get a feel for the national, international and local issues that were on people’s minds. In this period of prorogation I will continue with this as well as pursuing a programme of local meetings which would normally happen in the conference recess which usually happens at this time. I look forward to the opportunity for many more conversations. My office remains open during this period and I am still able to raise issues with Ministers and government departments as appropriate. If you have an issue that you would like to raise with me please do email me at howelljm@parliament.uk, phone on 0207 219 6676 or 01491 613072 or write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD).