Lift horror- the only way is up!

WEST Ham MP Lyn Brown, this week discusses her appointment to her first job in Government, and a lift horror! IT has been another tumultuous fortnight in British politics. The European Elections saw two members of the British National Party elected to

WEST Ham MP Lyn Brown, this week discusses her appointment to her first job in Government, and a lift horror!

IT has been another tumultuous fortnight in British politics.

The European Elections saw two members of the British National Party elected to the European Parliament; a Parliamentary re-shuffle, where a number of Ministers left Government for various reasons and the Prime Minister came to Stratford for a barnstorm of a speech, televised live on the BBC and Sky.

The following night he faced the Parliamentary Labour Party and it was clear, despite media hype and encouragement, that he is staying put as leader.


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And now Gordon has appointed me to my first job in Government.

I have become a Whip. This means that, in partnership with other colleagues in the whips office, I am responsible for party discipline and ensuring the Government can get its legislation through Parliament.

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In these rather turbulent times, I doubt that the job is going to be an easy one and I fear it has started much like it will go on.

I was appointed last Tuesday and the next day I was given responsibility for seeing through the Equalities Bill. This is a huge piece of legislation, consolidating and building on previous Acts of Parliament like Race Equality and Equal Pay laws.

The consideration of the Bill was due to start on Thursday, and we had three vacancies that I had to fill with Labour MP's with less than 24 hours' notice. Not the easiest of tasks. I called in favours, begged, pleaded and by 7.30 on Wednesday night, miraculously, the places were filled. I could sleep easy.

Thursday dawned, and enough of my members were in their seats, waiting for my minister to do her stuff. Having had a full half-hours training about Bill progression, I was less than semi-confident - but the morning passed without incident. We broke for lunch and for me it meant a little more training this time with colour-coded pens.

Feeling a little more chipper, with time to spare, I got into a lift to get to the committee room. Unfortunately, so did six colleagues, two of whom are rather on the portly side. The lift holds six.

Inevitably, the lift got stuck. Committee was starting. I was in the lift with a Minister from the Bill.

We didn't have a majority and the Bill could be defeated. I spent 20 minutes, in far too close contact with Parliamentary colleagues, pondering two very important issues.

If I was to lose a vote on a Bill on my third day in the job, would I become the shortest-ever serving member of the Whips office?

And secondly, given that many parts of the Houses of Parliament are very old, just how old were these lifts? They looked old - there were some very odd creaks coming from the rafters and the response to us pushing the emergency button was not confidence-inspiring. In Parliament, though, not all is as it seems....

But all's well that ends well. We were winched to safety and I got to Committee; shaken but clutching my colour-coded crib notes.

There is no doubt that the Government is going through difficult times at the moment, it feels like we are in a storm being battered by turbulent hurricanes coming from all directions. But as a fellow whip said to me "calm seas do not good sailors make".

In that case, I think I might become a formidable sailor in just a few short months.

If you have any comments on this column, please do get in touch. You can write to me at: Lyn Brown MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, ring my office on (020) 7219 6999 or e-mail: brownl@parliament.uk

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