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Short but Sweet? Looking back on the 2015-2017 Session

Andrew McQuillan

With the Parliament prorogued ahead of the General Election in June, we take a look back at a somewhat curtailed session at Westminster.

The 2015-17 Parliament was short by modern standards, with Theresa May’s decision to call an early General Election showing that the Fixed Term Parliament Act was probably not worth the vellum it was printed on.

For all its brevity, this Parliament bore witness to unparalleled political tumult. With the exception of Hillary Benn’s speech on intervention in Syria, very few of the seminal moments seemed to happen within the Chamber itself. Much of the political discourse was set in the streets by buses with slogans and flotillas on the Thames, not at Prime Minister’s Questions where the weekly contest between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn was only notable for strong and stable catchphrases about a country that works for everyone rather than rhetorical fireworks.

Brexit legislation aside, nothing of note seemed to be passed in this session, though that may do a disservice to the Faversham Oyster Fishery Company Act 2017. Much of the challenge to both David Cameron and Theresa May came from the other place, where peers voted against the Government over 30 times. As the Great Repeal Bill gets into full swing it would be safe to assume that some backbench Brexiteers may discover a new-found zeal for reforming the Lords.

SNP MPs made their mark in different ways. Angus Robertson used his profile at PMQs to ask the questions Jeremy Corbyn probably should have, while Eilidh Whiteford’s Private Member’s Bill on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention was the first ever by an SNP MP to reach the statute book, and a worthy one at that. Traditionalists may have found the initial rounds of applause disconcerting, the team who write up Hansard may have found Alan Brown’s Ayrshire lilt discombobulating and Angus MacNeil’s roar may have fallen somewhat flat, but I doubt Westminster will be the same again following on from what Charles Kennedy called the night of the long sgian dubhs. David Mundell will be hoping that he has more friends around him at future Scottish Questions assuming he is re-elected: a 56 to one ratio wasn’t the most forgiving for the Secretary of State.

The theme for select committees seemed to be holding corporate feet to the fire; Philip Green and Mike Ashley are unlikely to forget their appearances before the Business and Work & Pensions Committees while Scottish Affairs set a precedent by conducting a joint inquiry with Holyrood’s Social Security Committee.

Historians will probably regard this Parliament as one overtaken by the events unleashed by Brexit. However, as the out-workings of Brexit begin to manifest, the role of its successor Parliament in scrutinising the Government will be more important than ever. Though I doubt BBC Parliament will rival Line of Duty in the drama stakes, it will certainly be compulsive viewing.

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