Paul Holmes Annual Review 2020/21


I’m slightly embarrassed about how late this annual review is! It’s been languishing in my drafts for longer than some PMs have lasted in Downing Street! Before getting started, here are just a few reactions to Paul’s previous annual review way back in 2020:

  • “Biased nonsense.” (Paul Holmes)
  • “A lot of it’s wrong factually.” (Paul Holmes)
  • “I’m saying I think you’re wrong to say it’s well researched” (Paul Holmes)

I guess when Paul said, “you can judge me on my record” he meant in a limited and specific way.

Guarantees

We will get Brexit done in January and unleash the potential of our whole country.

I guarantee:

 •  Extra funding for the NHS, with 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP surgery appointments a year.
 •  20,000 more police and tougher sentencing for criminals.
 •  An Australian-style points-based system to control immigration.
 •  Millions more invested every week in science, schools, apprenticeships and infrastructure while controlling debt.
 •  Reaching Net Zero by 2050 with investment in clean energy solutions and green infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
 •  We will not raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance.

Thank you for supporting our majority Conservative Government so we can move our great country on instead of going backwards.

Boris Johnson
Prime Minister

Paul was elected to deliver the Conservative party manifesto and his primary role as Eastleigh’s MP is to vote with the government, which he does extremely loyally …even when that breaks his manifesto commitments and Boris Johnson’s guarantees.

I hope no one believes the 40 new hospital lie anymore, but in 2021 Paul also broke the Conservative promise not to raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance. That’s not all- he broke the pension triple lock promise, and the promise to spend 0.7% of gross national income on international aid as well.

It might be simpler not to bother with a manifesto at the next election.

Pandemic

It’s difficult to remember everything that happened in 2021 but there is a useful timeline of the pandemic available.

Having been unhappy about public health restrictions before Christmas, Paul suddenly had strong views about the dangers of delivering leaflets after Christmas. Perhaps it wouldn’t have looked quite so blatantly political in the run up to the local elections if Paul had been at all concerned about genuine risks throughout the pandemic. Like Gavin Williamson sending children back to school for a single day at the height of the unnecessarily deadly Omicron wave.

One of Paul’s least helpful contributions was when he asked the Health Secretary if he would instruct GPs to get back to work. Based on another of Paul’s intervention on GP services, I’m not sure he really understands the devastating impact his party is having on the health service.

Other than that, Paul appears to have had relatively little to say on one of the defining events of our age, although he has at least been consistent in urging people to get vaccinated, which is something.

Parliament

It can often seem like Paul is still a local councillor rather than a member of parliament, but this year Paul did something only an MP could: he introduced his own Bill to parliament! Paul is strangely reluctant to use some of the tools available to MPs to highlight important issues but in this case he made use of a Ten Minute Rule Bill to propose changes to the local planning process.

I actually agree with Paul that there is something of a conflict of interest in situations where a local council makes its own planning applications. Unfortunately Paul’s solution appeared to me to make an already opaque process even more opaque and complex. Ten Minute Rule Bills rarely make it as far as an act of Parliament and Paul’s didn’t really stand much chance of success when his government was committed to a policy of “build build build”. Even so, I think this was Paul’s best effort of the year, and better than another Ten Minute Rule Bill which the government did support.

Brexit

Paul was very happy to announce Boris Johnson’s trade deal with the EU on Christmas eve 2020. Frankly it was a bit like panic buying a last minute Christmas present at the petrol station but it was at least better than no deal at all. Even Eastleigh’s local plan got more scrutiny than the Conservative trade deal. Only time will tell whether it’s a good deal or not.

It was a little hard to find the many promised Brexit benefits so soon after Johnson’s skillfully negotiated trade deal but there is one lie that a significant number of people appear to believe: that the UK’s Covid vaccinations could be delivered faster due to Brexit. It is just one of many of Boris Johnson’s lies and I wrote to Paul asking him to uphold the Nolan principles and the Ministerial Code through a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately Paul declined and the vaccination lie started by Johnson lives on even now.

Corruption

A senior Conservative MP was found guilty of corruption in 2021 and Paul Holmes’ unquestioning loyalty to his party led him to collude with the vast majority of Conservative MPs to save Owen Paterson from any punishment.

There really isn’t any excuse for further undermining democracy in this way and, given his weak justifications, I get the sense that Paul at least realises he was in the wrong. I am also absolutely sure he would do the same thing again if he was asked.

Despite some frankly bizarre denials, we also learnt that Paul has his own second job. It’s within the rules, and he’s keen to point out that he has not exercised his share options, but it certainly introduces the potential for a conflict of interest in his campaign to reform planning rules. I hope he’s more transparent about it than Owen Paterson was.

Campaigns

Paul has a various local campaigns, so here’s a quick rundown on his progress this year.

One Horton Heath: Paul frequently complains about house building but, other than his failed attempt to change the law, he doesn’t propose any genuine alternatives. Of all his campaigns, this one seems the most likely to fail.

M27 resurfacing: great news, the resurfacing started in the summer this year! Oh, maybe not, it looks like Paul will get the chance to take credit for this one a few more times.

Airport expansion: one of the few things that Paul agrees with the local council about is that the airport should be allowed to extend their runway. In a climate emergency. Paul’s biggest contribution was a petition, which either means he doesn’t understand the planning process, or he doesn’t care. Not ideal for someone who wants to change the planning process.

“Local opposition or support for a proposal is not in itself a ground for refusing or granting planning permission, unless it is founded upon valid material planning reasons”

Determining a planning application

Hedge End station accessibility: Paul managed to get another opportunity to raise the issue in Parliament. Unfortunately without additional funding or changing the funding criteria, Hedge End station will have to wait it’s turn, but I think Paul knows that. Maybe next year?

Bringing the Great British Railways HQ to Eastleigh: lol, nice distraction, good luck with that!

Constituents

Like last year, Paul gets the most positive feedback for his local constituency casework. For example, helping when Eastleigh residents were left without water for two days.

On the other hand, the most criticism Paul received this year was for his part in the Conservative government’s failure to adequately tackle the problem of dumping raw sewage. Apparently they’re planning to come up with a plan though, so we should all be reassured. (My personal favourite part of Paul’s justification for allowing raw sewage to be released was “I wasn’t going to sign a blank cheque” which isn’t something that has unduly troubled him before or since!)

Paul’s biggest achievement last year was opening a constituency office in the centre of Eastleigh, fulfilling a promise he made to constituents during his election campaign. Sadly his commitment to keeping a town centre office open lasted less than a year. The excuse?

“The company we shared with wanted the space back due to expanding and the other alternatives were too expensive for budgets.”

Paul Holmes

Paul’s use of social media is still problematic. Despite frequently telling people to email him because he doesn’t reply on Twitter, Paul has a tendency to get drawn into unhelpful arguments, where he can be rude to constituents, and even caused something of a pile on to a local councillor. He also falsely accused another constituent of lying. Based on my experience, I doubt he apologised.

Overall, Paul’s record of sharing his views with constituents is patchy. It often takes a lot of pressure before he makes any statement on his website, and there are plenty of issues which he makes no comment on at all. I would love to know what he thinks of the cut to Universal Credit, the murder of Sarah Everard and the Met Police’s response, Priti Patel remaining in post despite breaking the ministerial code, or the bomb joke made by one of his colleagues.

Despite previously being coy about a government career, Paul made it on to the first rung of the ladder this year! His loyalty was rewarded with a job as Priti Patel’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, which was somewhat surprising given he has previously spoken of showing compassion for asylum seekers. It looks like Eastleigh’s constituents will have some competition for Paul’s attention now.

Conclusion

Paul is far from the worst Conservative MP there is but so far he has been too weak to stand up to the lies and corruption which have engulfed his party.

Biggest achievement: first government job as Priti Patel’s Parliamentary Private Secretary.
Biggest disappointment: closing his promised constituency office.

As before, these are just my personal observations about Paul’s year as Eastleigh’s MP in 2021. Being so late, I will have definitely forgotten plenty of examples- what do you think Paul did well, and how do you think he could improve?

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Paul Holmes Annual Review 2019/20


Paul told us we should judge him if he was lucky enough to win the election, and that seems like something which is too important to leave until 2024 so here is Paul’s first annual report.

Promises

To be frank, I didn’t vote for Paul and I was skeptical that he would be any better than Eastleigh’s previous MP, who had left us so unexpectedly. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised when he replied to my email shortly after being elected. It wasn’t the usual cut and paste response which Mims might have sent. It was a genuine, direct, reply to the question I had asked, and it confirmed unambiguously that he would stand by the commitment he had made in the election campaign. Perhaps he wasn’t going to be a Mims clone after all.

“For me, it is a question of integrity and honesty.”

(Paul Holmes election campaign)

Unfortunately that pre-election commitment didn’t even last a year. For me, Paul has failed on the question of integrity and honesty, but how did he do otherwise.

More promises

Other than the 40 new hospitals, and replacing the 20,000 police officers his party cut, Paul’s election campaign focused heavily on getting Brexit done (by Christmas). In January I pointed out that Brexit wasn’t done. It wasn’t. Here’s what Paul said:

“Stop lying about what I said I said I’d vote for a deal by Xmas. Which I did.

(Paul Holmes tweet)

Unfortunately Paul has never replied to my requests for him to explain why he thought I was lying.

Even now Brexit still isn’t done and, despite initially voting to sign the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, Paul has even voted to break that international agreement. The irony of openly threatening to break international law while complaining that China and Iran should stand by their international commitments seems to be lost on Paul.

Whether or not the Prime Minister eventually manages to agree his bad deal, we face the most damaging interpretation of the EU referendum result possible. I don’t think it’s acceptable to shrug off the government’s abject failure and carry on as if they have in any way respected the result of the 2016 referendum, or the 2019 election. They have not.

Pandemic

It’s only fair to acknowledge that Paul faced a public health emergency which would have stretched even the most competent government. Unfortunately our government was not selected for its competence and has largely failed to protect lives or the economy.

I actually think Paul started off strongly when it came to the coronavirus pandemic: he set a good example working remotely; he worked closely with the local council, despite their differences; his pinned tweet told constituents to stay at home, “No ifs no buts.”; he produced a fact sheet; he kept at it, reminding people to follow the rules even in the glorious lockdown weather; he sent a leaflet to all his constituents; and he celebrated the achievements of a local school as they stepped in to help with his government’s lengthy struggle to provide protective equipment. For me it was the highlight of his year.

Unfortunately it didn’t last beyond Barnard Castle.

Paul’s statement was mildly critical of the Prime Minister’s advisor and he admitted that situation had undermined the wider messaging around the public health emergency. I agreed and asked him to respond by reinforcing the rules and remind people what resources were available to help them. Basically to continue the good work he had started. His reply was rather abrupt:

“You can find the rules on http://gov.uk as you know well. So look there.”

(Paul Holmes tweet)

He appeared to give up taking Covid19 seriously after that, and even had his own minor Barnard Castle moment later in the year. At least Paul had the sense to apologise on that occasion.

In contrast, our previous MP still seems to be taking the pandemic more seriously.

National Politics

It’s difficult to tell what Paul really thinks about most national issues because he always votes how he is told to by the government whip. Check out Paul’s record on the TheyWorkForYou site for more detail. (The only time it looked like he rebelled was actually for a free vote on abortion in Northern Ireland.)

One issue you might expect Paul to say more about is Brexit, however he barely says anything about it apart from the occasional outburst about people trying to thwart it. Here’s what he said back in 2017 about why he supports Brexit:

“For me, growing up, it was nothing to do with immigration; I am pro-immigration. It was purely a sovereignty issue. I do not think that we should have stayed part of an organisation which we voted to join in 1975 as an economic trading bloc in which we slowly had the erosion of the sovereign basis to make our own laws. A majority of people who voted in 1975 did not vote for greater European interference and I think that culminated why I voted to leave.”

(Wessex Scene interview)

People did not just campaign and vote for an economic trading bloc in 1975. Paul didn’t vote in 1975 though so if he wasn’t standing to be an MP, I could forgive him for not checking that assertion. As for the referendum in 2016, he has no excuse. Deal or no-deal, does he really believe a majority of people really voted for what we’ll be getting in the new year?

One issue I think most people will agree with Paul on, is his opposition to a pay rise for MPs. He agreed with Kier Starmer that MPs shouldn’t get a pay rise this year, however Paul appeared to believe that there wasn’t anything MPs could do about it. While it is true that his pay is set by an independent body, MPs could make changes to that independent body through legislation. Parliament is sovereign after all, although I guess that would spoil the illusion of independence.

Perhaps the biggest criticisms for Paul came when he defended the government’s opposition to Marcus Rashford’s free school meal campaign. Aside from some unnecessary party politics, Paul’s statement explains all the things the government are doing, as you would expect. Unfortunately focusing on some superficially impressive sounding numbers isn’t as helpful as concentrating on outcomes. With news that Unicef will be feeding children in the UK for the first time, I think the government has some work to do. Hopefully they will work more constructively with campaigners like Marcus Rashford in the new year.

Local Politics

MPs have some sort of agreement that they will not deal with issues from people outside their own constituency. Unfortunately they don’t seem to afford the same courtesy to local politicians, so Paul frequently seems to get distracted by issues that he doesn’t need to get involved with. Of course some local issues benefit from being championed in Parliament, and it was good to see him raise the long running issue of Hedge End station accessibility in a debate.

Too often though he just uses his platform in Parliament to complain about Eastleigh Council and the Eastleigh local plan. It’s almost as if he’s trying to thwart the local democratic process for some reason.

Other than the Eastleigh local plan, Paul’s most visible local campaign has been in support of Southampton Airport’s application to extend their runway. This is an issue where he actually agrees with the local council however he is still impatient to rush through the planning process and, quite remarkably, he even appeared to suggest that the government should use a special development order. So much for local consultation.

Constituents

One area that Paul gets positive reviews for is where he has helped Eastleigh constituents with various problems, and obviously it’s a good thing for those people if his office can help.

What’s less obvious is whether the problems he helps with are best suited to an MP. Apparently Paul and his team answer over 100 cases a day, of which around 5% relate to pot holes. That could just be because it’s not obvious who should deal with pot holes, or it could be that Hampshire council doesn’t have the funding it needs to maintain roads.

Similarly, there will be other cases that could be dealt with by Eastleigh council, or Citizens Advice, or some other organisation. Unfortunately MPs are not covered by freedom of information requests but it would be really helpful if Paul could publish a breakdown of what topics constituents contact him about, and how many he is able to help with.

Conclusion

Paul has done a difficult job in a very difficult year, and he is far from the worst MP in Parliament. Overall though, Paul’s support of a dishonest Prime Minister who is clearly not up to the job far outweighs any good he might do locally. Hopefully that might change in the new year.

Biggest achievement: opening a constituency office.
Biggest disappointment: broken election promises.

Most importantly, these are just my personal observations about how Paul has done this year, and I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of things out. If you’d like to add anything, positive or negative, please leave a comment below.

Updates

I guess Paul didn’t actually want to be judged after all. (31st December 2020)

“Biased nonsense.”

(Paul Holmes tweet)