Why SNP’s John Nicolson is Parliament’s new ‘go-to man’

Written by David Singleton on 26 May 2016 in Diary

The MP for East Dunbartonshire is now a top target for lobbyists after winning the Private Members' Bill ballot.

The SNP’s John Nicolson has seen off competition from hundreds of fellow MPs to top this year’s Private Members' Bill ballot.

The former journalist was immediately congratulated by colleagues and is now set to be furiously lobbied by various charities, lobbying firms and other organisations that are keen to bring in a new law.

Some 458 MPs put their name forward to be in the ballot, all fighting for just 20 available slots.

Nicolson’s triumph means he gets to pick the first possible day for debate, giving him the best chance of getting his bill through parliament.

Second was Tory MP Bob Blackman and third was fellow Tory Alec Shelbrooke. You can see the full top 20 below.

Nicholson said he would have a "long think" about what legislation to bring forward, while Shelbrooke said: “I have got several ideas running through my head.”

The SNP's Ronnie Cowan responded to the news by suggesting that Nicolson might have suddenly become the most popular man in Westminster:



There was also evidence of justice secretary Michael Gove cosying up to the SNP politician in the Commons chamber, just hours after his success in the Private Members' Bill ballot.



But one senior lobbyist said while Private Member’s Bills had their benefits, there were better ways to go about getting the law changed.

Weber Shadwick’s corporate and public affairs chairman Jon McLeod told TP: “The Private Member’s Bill route has got strong PR value and, if the MP is high enough up the list, there is a real chance of getting the Government's attention.

“But it really isn't the best way to change the world - not least in the present Parliament, where the Lords is on a knife-edge and the Commons is set to become more factitious and divided after the 23 June.”

He added: “If you want to change the world - or just the law - the better route is to build support for your amendment or legislative proposal within the government to the extent that ministers and officials are willing to bring it forward as part of a mainstream bill which will get timetabling support and make its way through the legislative sausage machine.

Four bills from last year's ballot became law: the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Act, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Act, the NHS (Charitable Trusts Etc) Act and the Riot Compensation Act.

This year, for the first time ever the draw was conducted ballot balls, rather than tickets. Commons deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: “You may notice that the ballot has gone paperless, along with the rest of the House. We’re real modernisers here.”

The SNP’s Alison Thewliss suggested it could be the start of a new career for the deputy speaker.



Positions in the 2016 ballot:

1.    John Nicolson (SNP, East Dunbartonshire)
2.    Bob Blackman (Conservative, Harrow East)
3.    Alec Shelbrooke (Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell)
4.    Pat Glass (Labour, North West Durham)
5.    Gareth Johnson (Conservative, Dartford)
6.    Mhairi Black (SNP, Paisley and Renfrewshire South)
7.    Dr Eilidh Whiteford (SNP, Banff and Buchan)
8.    Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative, Rochester and Strood)
9.    Edward Argar (Conservative, Charnwood)
10.    James Morris (Conservative, Halesowen and Rowley Regis)
11.    Roger Mullin (SNP, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath)
12.    Byron Davies (Conservative, Gower)
13.    David Tredinnick (Conservative, Bosworth)
14.    Andrew Gwynne (Labour, Denton and Reddish)
15.     Louise Haigh (Labour, Sheffield, Heeley)
16.     Peter Lilley (Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden)
17.     Ian Liddell-Grainger (Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset)
18.     John Glen (Conservative, Salisbury)
19.     Lucy Allan (Conservative, Telford
20.    Dan Jarvis (Labour, Barnsley Central)



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