We Know The Power Of Cross-Party Working – But Parliament Needs Much More Of It

We're three MPs from three different parties, and this time last year had never worked together. Now we're backing a new network for MPs to find allies of all persuasions on the issues they care most deeply about

This time last year we had never worked together. A year later, the three of us jointly met the home secretary, Sajid Javid, to discuss our shared views on what can be done to improve the UK’s immigration system. He invited us to talk after we led a campaign with More United which helped raise the profile of much-needed changes and freeze unfair fees facing people who have lived and worked in the UK for decades. This is the power of cross-party working and it’s something our politics needs more of.

Parliament isn’t always the easiest place to build relationships with people who aren’t in your party. The tribal culture and myriad corridors of the Palace of Westminster don’t lend themselves to collective working. Securing senior roles requires strong support within your own party which means that for MPs who want to try their hand at government there is little incentive to make friends with the opposition. When time is scarce it can feel more valuable to spend time cultivating your colleagues in your own party.

Each of us is strongly committed to our own party. We have plenty of healthy disagreement on all sorts of topics. Yet when it comes to issues that outlive any one government we think cross-party working is vital. We’d like to see MPs given more opportunity to discover the things they have in common with colleagues from other parts of the political spectrum.

That’s why we have all signed up to the new More United MP Network, which is launching today and will be a permanent platform for MPs who want to work cross-party in Parliament to find allies of all persuasions on the issues they care most deeply about.

A successful cross-party campaign and long-lasting change to tackle a complex area of public policy requires people to find common ground on divisive issues. Immigration is one of those issues.

Whatever your perspective it would be hard to ignore the fact that the intensity of emotion surrounding who has the right to live and work in the UK has contributed to the painful politics of Brexit.

That’s why when we were approached by More United last autumn to lead a joint campaign on immigration, we said yes. and put aside our party differences to write to almost 150,000 More United members asking for their views.

We knew there would be things they would disagree on, but 17,200 people got involved in a consultation that revealed a shared desire for a new immigration policy that would support our economy, wasn’t xenophobic, and would support our local communities when they experience unusual migration flows.

Those who responded were split on whether they thought immigration had had a positive or negative effect on their own community, but once practical proposals were put forward as part of the consultation, to our surprise, despite these diverging views, there was considerable consensus on which policies could generate more trust in the system.

Since then Brexit has taken the everyday business of Parliament hostage and prevented much debate on other important issues facing the UK. Emergency debates in the Commons have doubled since 2015 and the number of urgent questions has risen by almost 50% since 2017 as the back and forth with Brussels has rumbled on. With so much time demanded for urgent issues it is inevitable that there are slow-burning and often contentious issues which themselves starved of the political attention required to address them.

With no immediate end to the Brexit saga in sight (however much we might wish differently) we have to get to grips with issues ignored because of Brexit. Members of the More United MP Network have already expressed an interest in exploring new ways to prevent poverty, future-proof the rules that regulate giant technology companies, inject urgency into efforts to tackle climate change and do more to tackle growing mental health issues.

There is a strong desire throughout the country for politics to be done differently. For some people this means the need for a new political party. That’s not an option any of us will consider but we do hope we can work with colleagues from all parties to try and stake out long-term solutions (or at least positive improvements) on issues that otherwise risk becoming short-term political footballs in our adversarial atmosphere.

That atmosphere can be changed. It is possible to have a pluralist politics where people are able to disagree fundamentally on a range of issues but also agree wholeheartedly on others. After all, that is what it is to be human. At a time when some politicians are fearful for their own safety we all need to be able to show our human side and cross-party working is one way of doing that – here’s to much more of it.

Nicky Morgan is the Conservative MP for Loughborough

Tulip Siddiq is the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn

Christine Jardine is the Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West

For more information on More United, visit the website here


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