Hove MP Peter Kyle has written a personal account of his frustration at being unable to prevent the Trade Union Bill from being passed by the House of Commons.
Mr Kyle, who won Hove for Labour at the general election in May, was told to miss a trip to Auschwitz with local school children to take part in the Commons vote.
Labour lost the vote and the bill is now being considered by the House of Lords.
Mr Kyle said: “Please don’t frown when someone talks about ‘electability’.
“Instead talk about how we marry values with delivering positive change in a way that instils trust in those who we ask to vote for us.”
He described the downside of being in opposition in a Facebook post headed: “A very frustrating day.”
To read the post on Mr Kyle’s Facebook page, click here. He wrote it last night (Tuesday 10 November) and by early this evening more than 500 people “liked” the post, almost 200 had shared it and it had attracted more than 70 comments.
Mr Kyle has used his Facebook page to explain to voters what he does as an MP and to describe some of the ups and downs of a job that he said he still loves.
He wrote: “Five minutes ago the Trade Union Bill passed through the Commons on its final reading. Soon it will become law and nothing can stop it.
“I’m now sitting in my office in Parliament reflecting on the huge frustrations of being in opposition.
“Ever since I was elected I’ve heard the phrase ‘strong opposition’ used fairly often. Usually it means that people want us to be distinctive, to be unequivocal, to be forceful and united in the way we attack the government.
“During and since the Welfare Bill debate, when I abstained, I was bombarded with messages such as, ‘if only you had united with other parties of the left you could have beaten the Tories.’
“It’s something that lots of people believe but as I sit here full of emotion and frustration I want to tell you why today is proof that being united isn’t enough to win the votes that change people’s lives for the better or protect them from harmful laws like tax credit cuts.
“In the first week I became your MP I agreed to visit Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, for the day with two students from every secondary school and college in Hove and Portslade.
“It was to be an important day where different generations could come together and learn the horrors of war in a place that symbolises it like no other.
“On occasions like this MP’s are given a ‘pair’, which means a Tory MP is allowed to do something similar so that any votes that day are cancelled out and no party is disadvantaged. I was due to go today.
“Last week we found out that the third reading of the Trade Union Bill would be today and over the weekend I was instructed to cancel the trip in order to attend the vote.
“These things happen and I understand why. My trip will be rescheduled but I’m so sorry for the extra work it has caused everyone involved and to those who had prepared for it but have been delayed.
“Labour cancelled my trip and that of other MPs – they even insisted that an MP rearrange a medical appointment – so that every single one of us were present today.
“It worked because we were indeed united. And in the chamber we were ferocious. We won the argument on the core aspects of the Bill – we had right on our side.
“The left united behind Labour: the SNP, Lib Dems and our Green MP all voted with us. It was everything that some people have been crying out for from the official opposition.
“And we lost, by 34 votes.
“Back in September there was a whole week when we were equally ferocious, focused and right.
“On the Monday we had the Trade Union Bill (second reading) which we lost. On the Wednesday was the vote on tax credit cuts which we lost. And on Thursday was the Education and Adoption Bill (third reading) which we lost.
“I got home that week exhausted and angry but luckily I had a good night’s sleep because on the way to work the next day someone stopped me in the street and said, ‘I’m worried Labour aren’t taking the fight to the Tories. If you just spoke up some more, you’ll get other MPs to vote with you and you’ll easily beat them.’
“I knew I’d slept well because a smile remained on my face as I explained the harsh realities of what happens when you lose elections.
“I write this update not only to vent my frustration – I’m feeling better already – but because I want everyone who cares about the Labour Party to understand the harsh reality of what I experience every single day, sometimes six or ten times a day, when I’m at Parliament.
“There are only two ways we can win votes in Parliament.
“The first is that Tories break their whip and vote with us. Frank Field held a backbench debate on tax credit cuts two days after the official opposition debate.
“He conducted it in an extremely clever way, praising MPs on all sides where it was warranted, and hosted a detailed principled debate on the issue which led many Tory MPs opening up about their concerns, one saying, ‘The £1,200 cut is too much. It is too far.’
“The next day the Treasury began its climbdown which we’ll find out more about at the end of the month. I learnt a lot from watching this unfold.
“The second way is the only reliable way of winning votes in the Commons and that’s by winning a general election.
“It sounds so simple but it’s a fact and that’s what every one of us need to be thinking about right now if we care about not just stopping bad legislation but making laws that are fair and empowering.
“So please don’t frown when someone talks about ‘electability’ but instead talk about how we marry values with delivering positive change in a way that instils trust in those who we ask to vote for us.
“Only then will the tyranny of losing votes end.
“I hope this post doesn’t sound too negative. I know you all realise just how much I love this job you have given me.
“But I needed to get that off my chest and I look forward to hearing what you all think. I’m off to catch a train back to Hove. I can’t wait to get home!”
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