Have passport, will travel, won’t legislate

I’m no fan of Nadine Dorries, the Mid Bedfordshire MP whose time in the Australian jungle on prime-time ITV was meant to teach the basics of abortion law to an audience ignorant of politics via the processes of eating an ostrich anus. (I could at this point say ‘she was lying with cockroaches rather than sitting on the backbenches with them, but let’s not go there….)

Her inappropriate trip abroad rightly saw her punished and stripped of the Party Whip, the significance of which might filter down to her when she’s stopped catching up with her constituent’s emails whilst lazying in a luxury hotel.

And then, from the other side of the Commons, along comes a man to usurp the scourge of abortion clinics and horny teenagers everywhere in the pursuit of passport-stamping.

Hendrick has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons by way of the hitherto obscure “All Party Parliamentary China Group”, who seem to promote on their website press-releases from other government departments whilst not doing anything themselves. The MP for Preston is called “an officer” of the Group, but one seemingly without portfolio.

Well, the former MEP for Lancashire Central has found something to do without a portfolio, and has found it to the great cost of £43,211. He has spent four months  – FOUR, count them Nadine, you amateur! – away from his Preston constituency, presumably acceptable to his Labour colleagues on Preston Council because they’ve chosen not to say anything against him in public. (At least Nadine’s party colleagues grumbled to the press; Preston’s Labour Group have been silent.)

Oh wait a minute, maybe they have said something about his conduct. Earlier this year they had to grumble and groan because he’d forgotten that his constituency has something called a Guild once-every-twenty-years, calling his decision to wander back to Preston on a whim an embarrassment. An MP since the year 2000, he should by now have been told that it’s tradition for Prestonians to mark the Guild from the start.

There’s nothing on his personal website or the APPCG site which explains why Hendrick has to take so much time away from being an MP for Preston. It’s reminiscent of the worst days of arrogance from parliamentarians, who considered a safe seat (majority 7,733 in 2010, down from 12,268 in 2001) to be a platform from which they launched a totally separate career. At least Nadine said she was leaving her constituency duties to talk about politics (or at least try to, good job ITV editors). What does Mark Hendrick say? Well, from what I can see, nothing.

His predecessor as Labour MP was Audrey Wise, for whom the term ‘firebrand’ might as well have been her given first name. The difference between them is beyond comprehension. From being the MEP for the area, Mark has now become the MP for jollies and junkets, so distant from the Ribble that he almost forgot about the Guild. Is it any wonder that his share of the vote has plummeted in the ten years between first election and the most recent? Voters are aware of his jet-set lifestyle even if he isn’t aware of them.

Even if the ‘zombie review’ does get voted through, Preston’s constituency boundaries give any Labour candidates a headstart. Hendrick could spend four weeks out of every five drinking at Ambassador’s parties without suffering much at all. It’s this complacency and arrogance which marks him out the most. There’s no justification for his absence or the connected costs. There’s no justification for his jetting off to China without any reason or result published on-line. Preston already has very strong relations with China and elsewhere in Eastern Asia through the University of Central Lancashire and from their website it appears Mark Hendrick’s jet-setting adventures have no place in their achievements.

Safe seats foster ‘ownership issues’, and boy does Holidaying Hendrick come across as having those. Preston is not supposed to be the hotel he checks into every quarter whilst clocking up the airmiles. But it seems to be, and that can’t be something on which the local CLP can be silent on for much longer….can it?

Mark Hendrick goes fishing

0.1% growth. The country is a sneezing fit away from flat-lining. Little wonder our dear leaders were not doing much vox-pop yesterday, given the last three months has seen the end of the longest, deepest recession in modern times marked by the slightest possible increase. Well, not even an increase, all told. If the ONS revise the figure downwards later in the year Gordon’s legacy will surely be complete.

If Labour MPs struggling to find anything positive to say about their 12 years in power – what with the aforementioned recession, the increasing deficit, out of control public spending, ID cards, illegal invasion of Iraq, growing gap between rich and poor no better than it was in the 1970s, and so on – they could do worse than to take a leaf out of the book of Preston MP, Mark Hendrick.

One time MEP for the former European constituency of Lancashire Central, Hendrick won the 2000 Preston by-election by a comfortable(ish) margin. He has certainly fostered some kind of reputation, largely for not once voting against the Government line (in a University town he voted for tuition fees, smart enough. Then voted for the Iraq war. Good man. And the DNA database. Everything in fact. Yes-man to the core. Loyalist to a T.)

Well now Hendrick has really taken the proverbial biscuit. Not able to reach for something positive to come from the disastrous calamity that has been Labour in power, he has taken to flooding middle-ranking Ministers with questions that should be prefixed “Could you ensure the answers are easy to copy and paste into my next election leaflet?”. These are such blatant electioneering questions it’s amazing they’re even allowed. Hendrick is wasting our money trying to find content for his election addresses. A scandal by any other name…

But, hang on! Is he actually getting anywhere with this fishing expedition? It seems not. For the good folk in the foothills of Government are not giving Hendrick the kind of answers he’d prefer for his next issue of “The Rose”.

For example…

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many women resident in Preston have been awarded the Sure Start Maternity Grant since its introduction.

To which comes the answer…

Helen Goodman (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions; Bishop Auckland, Labour)

The information is not available

Okay, what about…

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many and what percentage of suspected cancer patients resident in Preston saw an NHS consultant within two weeks of referral in each year since 1997.

Nope, not quite got a good enough answer for his press release here neither…

Ann Keen (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health; Brentford & Isleworth, Labour)

The two week wait for all cancers was introduced from 2000 (HSC1999/205).

Data for the period 1997-2002 is not available.

There then follows a table detailing the information for Lancashire’s Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Try again, Mr Hendrick! Try again!

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much funding his Department has allocated for the treatment of heart disease and cancer care in Preston in each year since 1997.

Ann Keen (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health; Brentford & Isleworth, Labour)

The information requested is not collected centrally.

And again, Mark, come on, you know you can do it!

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how many miles of priority bus lanes have been introduced in Preston since 1997.

Sadiq Khan (Minister of State, Department for Transport; Tooting, Labour)

This information is not collected centrally.

Oh dear! Will an answer ever come?

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the percentage change in numbers of (a) overall recorded crimes, (b) recorded violent crimes, (c) burglaries and (d) vehicle thefts in Preston has been since 1997.

Alan Campbell (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office; Tynemouth, Labour)

Information is not available in the form requested.

Oh fail! Oh shame!

The disgraceful behaviour of Mark Hendrick should really not go unreported. This man is clearly not asking questions for the people of Preston; he is dealing with his own re-election. It’s a total waste of time, effort, and money. But clearly it is alright for the man whose expenses claims included quite a lot of cash for a comfier bed. I do hope he can sleep well at night…