INTERVIEWS: Morecambe and Lancaster MPs return to Westminster
Both of our local MPs have gone back to work amid an uncertain political future at Westminster.
Cat Smith and David Morris were both re-elected at the general election and returned to the Houses of Parliament this week.
Labour’s Ms Smith retained her Lancaster and Fleetwood seat in Thursday’s election with an increased majority.
Meanwhile the Conservative Mr Morris retained his seat in Morecambe and Lunesdale with a reduced majority.
On her return, Ms Smith vowed to keep a watchful eye on any alliance between the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The Conservative party won the most seats nationally but not enough for an overall majority, as Labour gained 30 seats.
Prime Minister Theresa May and her team have since been in talks with Northern Ireland’s DUP, who have 10 seats, over a possible ‘confidence and supply’ agreement where they would gain support on major law-making issues.
The alliance had not been finalised, leading Ms Smith to say that everything in Westminster was “in limbo”.
“It’s their own ‘coalition of chaos’ – what we’ve been left with is a waiting game to see if the Conservatives and DUP can come to an arrangement,” said Ms Smith.
“If they do I will be keeping a good close eye on equality legislation because (the DUP) don’t have a good record on that, to protect the hard-won rights of LGBT people and women’s rights.”
In contrast, Mr Morris said an agreement with the DUP “doesn’t worry me”.
“If they are taking as long as they are, it will be a strong ‘supply and demand coalition’ and that’s as it should be,” he said.
“They won’t be any issues with government (equalities) policy. There is no deal on the table that sees any of that changing.
“I know the DUP. They have backed us before in Westminister. (DUP MP) Ian Paisley Jnr is a friend of mine. We’re dealing with decent people. I’ve never had a problem with them.
“We were in coalition with the Lib Dems (from 2010 to 2015) and did some marvellous things together.”
Ms Smith, a longtime supporter of leader Jeremy Corbyn, said the resurgent Labour party was “still on an election footing”.
“We met as a shadow cabinet (on Wednesday morning) to review the election,” she said.
“There is a real sense of coming together in the Parliamentary Labour Party. The whole party is behind Jeremy Corbyn as leader. We are ready to govern the country.
“It’s all about maintaining the momentum now.
“I’m very pleased to have been proved right that the policies we put to the country were those that the country really wanted to have put to them, and people voted for them.”
Mr Morris, who won on Thursday by 1,399 votes from Labour’s Vikki Singleton, said he felt the narrower-than-expected election win had been a wake-up call for the Tories.
“The message went loud and clear to the Prime Minister,” he said.
“The (Conservative election) manifesto was a complete c__k-up.
“I wouldn’t have voted for that social care policy in a month of Sundays.
“We’re still in deficit. People are tired of austerity. People have had enough – that came through loud and clear with the election results. We have got to start looking at different ways to balance the books.
“Even though Corbyn didn’t have his policies costed, he offered people something we failed to do. He offered them hope.”
Mr Morris said he also felt the Conservatives hadn’t done enough to appeal to younger voters.
“I was sitting in McDonald’s just before the election count and I saw people coming through the drive-through, giving me the thumbs up,” he said.
“But then there was one young lad, he must have been aged between 25 and 30. He had a very nice flash BMW car, was very well dressed, and he was giving me (abusive) hand gestures through the window.
“I was thinking, that’s the kind of voter who should be voting for me. The penny dropped.
“He was a young man, clearly on a good income. But there is no room for manoeuvre as far as pay rises go.
“I told the Prime Minister straight. Why are we not appealing to 25-35 year olds like we normally do?”
Mr Morris was at the 1922 Committee meeting of Tory backbenchers on Monday where Mrs May told colleagues “I got us into this mess and I’m going to get us out of it”.
The PM had called the election hoping to increase her majority to help upcoming Brexit talks with the European Union – but the plan backfired.
“The Prime Minister was very contrite,” said Mr Morris.
“She knows we have to start looking at where we went wrong.
“It’s not that Labour did well, we did bloody badly.”
Ms Smith certainly believes that if another general election is called quickly, Labour can take Mr Morris’ seat.
“Seats like Morecambe and Lunesdale are now on the Labour Party’s target list,” she said.
“The (Labour) vote was up 10 per cent in Morecambe and Lunesdale (from 34.9% in 2015 to 44.6% in 2017). That’s really impressive.”
But Mr Morris pointed out that with 21,773 votes, he still polled more than in either of his two previous election wins.
“I was out there canvassing every day,” he said.
“We do converse with the public, despite what Labour say. They ran a really vile and nasty campaign.
“They say I don’t answer my mail (from constituents). It’s complete rubbish.”
Mr Morris received a large amount of abuse from voters on social media in the run-up to the election and said he hoped the government would pass laws to stop such “trolling” in future.
Meanwhile both of our MPs did agree on one thing – they were both happy to be back working on local issues after their election wins.
Mr Morris marshalled at the St John’s Hospice Moonlight Walk on Saturday night/Sunday morning while Ms Smith was preparing for a visit to the Houses of Parliament by Ridge Community Primary School on Thursday.