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04 May 2012

The weekly WHIP: 4 May 2012

The weekly WHIP: 4 May 2012

Sunday Trading

Despite a litany of speeches from the opposition benches and a coalition of churches and trade unions the Government pushed through changes to all shops to stay open for eight weeks straight this summer (should they wish).

Speaking in the House of Commons debate on the temporary extension to Sunday opening hours, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said: "Sunday is still a day on which many people in this country can come together with family and friends to wind down, to exercise, to have a different kind of day or most importantly, to recharge our batteries."

Despite the government backing away from amending the Sunday trading laws last year and the previous government also seeing no appetite for change, parliament voted by 273 vote to 131 for a temporary change with most of the opposition coming from the Labour benches.

Prorogation

At the end of one of the longest parliamentary sessions in recent history several Acts of Parliament received their Royal Assent, and those – in particular private members bills – which hadn't been agreed, fell by the wayside.

After a final debate about the reform of the House of Lords – which incidentally, is the second largest parliamentary chamber in the world, smaller only than the assembly of the People's Republic of China, the House of Lords was prorogued. The good folks at BBC Democracy Live talk you through what all this means and if you're not familiar with the tradition it's well worth a watch.

The highlights include it apparently not being appropriate for the Queen to come in person and perhaps most vitally the art of a good doff of the hat. The commentators for the BBC (yes, they had commentary for this most august of occasions) did not think too much of the Royal Commission's doffing skills.

All this means that parliament breaks for a few days before starting again with the Queen's speech (when one hopes it will be appropriate for Her Majesty to attend in person) on Wednesday.

Election

The WHIP was hoping to bring you news of the new Mayor of London. But barring a somewhat unexpected turn of events it's looking like the same one as before, and were Boris to fall at the final hurdle it would be the same mayor as the one before him. Watch out for news and views on the final result – there's even speculation that Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick could be pushed into fifth.

But across the country votes have been taking place on whether cities want to follow David Cameron's call for them to also have a Boris in charge. A call that appears not to have been popular; Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Coventry all rejected directly elected mayors in their referenda. As the WHIP goes to press news reaches us that Bristol has bucked the trend and opted for a directly elected mayor.

Following pasty tax, granny tax, heritage tax, the hacking inquiry, ongoing revelations and investigations into quite how intertwined politicians are with the press; it's perhaps not surprising that the voters have given the governing parties a bit of a kicking. If the Conservatives were trying to manage expectations by predicting Labour gains of 450 councillors, they failed at that game as the tally shot past that marker with many still to declare.