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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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?