Penny Newell, Kiffy McPherson and Clemency Schofield, representing Faversham and Whitstable PSC, attended the lobby of Parliament organised by PSC on 23th June.
The mass lobby of Parliament for Palestine is an annual event and the idea is for as many local groups as possible to ask for a meeting with their MP to discuss issues that affect Palestinians and to request their MP to take action in Parliament to raise the issue and put pressure on the Government to take meaningful action.
We attended a briefing first where it was explained that although there were three main areas PSC wished to highlight (lifting the blockade on Gaza, banning the import of settlement goods and restricting arms sales to Israel), we should focus on one of these, and we decided to emphasise lifting the Gaza blockade. We were given a fact sheet about Gaza, details of two Early Day Motions that we should ask our MP to sign, and a list of questions that she might ask in two upcoming debates.
Helen Whately agreed to meet us and turned up promptly at 2 pm (not all MPs agree to meet their constituents for this lobby), and we held our talk on the terrace next to the Thames.
She was at pains to explain that as a new MP she was still finding out about procedures and wanted to inform herself more fully with the regard to the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine conflict.
She was generally sympathetic and agreed that the blockade of Gaza infringed basic Palestinian human and political rights. Her predecessor, Hugh Robertson, was a member of the Commons Middle East Committee and far more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than most Tory MPs, to the extent of upsetting many of his more pro-Israel colleagues.
Helen Whately said that she was keen to join this Committee and wanted to visit the region to experience first-hand the situation there.
She would not commit herself to any other actions, saying that she had been warned, as a new MP, not to sign EDMs as she would be besieged by requests.
We gave her a copy of the Disappearing Palestine map, and the fragmentation of the West Bank seemed to shock her; we also gave her a copy of the EDMs, and a copy of our Faversham & Whitstable PSC leaflet. She lives just outside Faversham so perhaps in the future she might be interested in attending one of our events.
Overall, we were disappointed that our new MP did not make any commitment on any of the issues raised, but we are glad to have had the opportunity to start a dialogue.
Want to know more about Helen Whately’s record on Palestine? Click here.