There are many adjectives which you can use to describe Philip Davies.
Boring is not one of them.
He is infamous for currently being the most rebellious serving Conservative MP, having voted against his party’s Whip 120 times. He is also well known for using the tactic of filibustering to kill off legislation he dislikes. A quick google search will also bring up allegations of a spurious involvement in the gambling industry and a controversial chain of correspondence to the Equality and Human Rights Committee, in which he reportedly asked ‘whether it was racist for a policeman to refer to a BMW as ‘black man’s wheels’.
On his visit to Notre Dame on Friday 6th February 2015, he initiated an hour long Q&A session with students in the lecture theatre. It began with a question on the subject of surveillance; a topic which has recently been in the news because of the high profile terrorist attacks in Paris. Mr Davies defended his authoritarian stance on surveillance, by arguing that it does not infringe upon our day-to-liberties. He said “It’s a question of when we suffer another terrorist attack in this country, not if.”
Another bone of contention was the minimum wage. Mr Davies notably said in 2011 that “the minimum wage can be more of a hindrance than a help.” In the case of some disabled jobseekers. He continues to stand by his position on this, despite the storm of controversy which it created. During this session, he re-affirmed his position on the issue, stating that he “disagrees with the minimum wage on principle.” And that “what somebody is paid is a matter between the employer and the employee.” His argument was that disabled people are facing poor employment prospects, and should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage to make them more attractive to employers.
I wonder how Mr Davies would respond to his government’s closure of the UK’s remaining Remploy factories?
Sheltered factories have long been a contentious issue amongst disability rights campaigners; however they undoubtedly provided vital employment to those with disabilities. Remploy opened it’s first factory in Brigend, Wales in 1946. At their peak, in the late 1980s, Remploy factories employed more than 10,000 people at 94 sites, with employees performing a wide range of invaluable tasks, including bookbinding, monitoring CCTV images and carpentry.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4′s ‘Face The Facts’ programme, Simon Huntington, a former Remploy employee from Durham explained the personal impact of the factory closures. “My whole life at the moment is thanks to Remploy – and now that’s gone, my life is gone. I’m so proud that I worked for Remploy and I will continue saying that. Remploy was a lifesaver. Remploy was my life.”
Now, most of the work that Remploy undertakes focuses on delivering careers advice to disabled people, aiming to encourage them into mainstream employment through disability friendly employers such as Marks and Spencers. Despite this, the Department of Work and Pensions is aware of less then a third of ex-Remploy employees who have managed to find new jobs. PIC CREDIT: Former Remploy workers protest in April 2012. Photograph: Getty Images
Disability employment is a complex issue, and the DWP faces many difficult decisions in the future. However if one thing is clear, it is that abolishing the minimum wage is not the answer.
Perhaps the most controversial issue was the topic of equality. Mr Davies voted strongly against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013, saying that “You are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land if you believe it promotes equality.” He argued that the act is ‘fundamentally flawed’ due to it’s provisions for divorce.
Due to a series of historical rulings which form a body of complex case law, a homosexual couple cannot cite either adultery or non-consummation as the reason for divorce. Instead, they can use the umbrella term of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, which is currently cited by 98% of heterosexual couples as the reason for divorce and covers adultery and non-consumation. One lower 6th student Lucy Timmins passionately replied “the only one living in Cloud Cuckoo Land is Philip Davies!”
Once the Q&A session had finished, the debate continued to rage on through social media. One Lower 6thstudent, Evie Appleson was shocked to find that Mr Davies had replied to her tweet, calling her an ‘intolerant small minded socialist’.
So what was the overall verdict?
Politics teacher, Dr Warnes, (who will be standing against Mr Davies as the Green Party candidate in Shipley on 7th May) said that “We were very pleased to welcome back Shipley MP Philip Davies. He is one of the more colourful members of parliament, a politician who speaks his mind on the issues he cares about. It was a really enjoyable session, and we are very grateful to Philip for finding the time to drop in.”
Allan Clifford, Head of Politics, agrees, saying that: “Philip Davies is a Conservative who is not afraid to court controversy across a range of British political issues. A real treat for all concerned!”
And finally, Lower 6th student, Amelia Webb said that “It was interesting to hear political perspectives very different from my own!”
By Fran Talbot