Over the last thirty years or so there have been concerns that London MPs have never banded together to form a strong cross-Party lobby for London and Londoners – in the same way that MPs from other regions have done.
There is a very active group of London Labour MPs, which achieved much in the past.
And there is an All-Party London Group in the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Montgomery of Alamein (not that one, his son), but that is hardly the same thing and any way members of the House of Commons are not part of the Group.
So I was interested to see that in the All-Party Notices – an official document put together by the Parliamentary authorities that is circulated with the Party Whip documents for all Parties in both House – that an inaugural meeting of an All-Party Group on London was to take place last night at 6pm in Room W2 (off Westminster Hall). Strangely, no contact was given in the Notice as to who was organising the meeting. And unusually, there had been no e-mail or letter round to MPs and Peers who might be interested explaining the purpose of the meeting.
Intrigued, I turned up to room W2 at the appointed time. It was empty. A few moments later I was joined by Jim Fitzpatrick MP, former Minister for London and as intrigued as I was as to what this new Group was all about and who was organising it.
Ten minutes or so later, we were still the only people present and, as inaugural meetings normally only last two or three minutes, we left. On our way out we checked who had booked the room. It turned out that the meeting was in the name of Mike Freer MP, the former Leader of Barnet Council who introduced the Ryanair approach to public services to local government.
So why didn’t he turn up?
And why were no Coalition MPs or Peers present?
Clearly, the Coalition Government does not regard London as important. No Minister has been designated as Minister for London -despite the practice of having a Minister for London pre-dating the last Labour Government.
Maybe Mike Freer thought this deficit might be – in part – rectified by setting up an All-Party Group, but his enthusiam didn’t seem to extend beyond booking a room. Bit pathetic really.