Darfur and Incitement to Religious Hatred

International Development Questions – and I have Oral Question Number 4. I am asking the Minister about Darfur. The Chamber – at 11.55 when I get called to ‘put’ the question – is heaving as Prime Ministers’ Questions follows.

I ask the Government if they do not now recognise the need for the United Nations Security Council to increase the presence of the African Union and strengthen their mandate so that the level of protection is increased in Darfur. The situation there is so insecure and unstable that refugees and internally displaced persons are still unlikely to return. The Minister is nice about it – but basically says no.

Then it is Prime Ministers’ Questions – always a blast!

Then I am into the second session of the Committee Stage on the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill. I know that the following day, for the two Thursday sessions, Alistair (my Lib Dem colleague on the committee) is going to have to leave me on my own as he has to return to Orkney for a prior commitment. However, by the time he leaves just before the end of today’s session, all our amendments on which we have to lead will have been moved. So I will only have to interject on the Tory amendments and general arguments.

Best laid plans of mice and men … Dominic Grieve (for the Conservatives) makes a brilliant argument on one of the amendments – but it takes an hour – so Alistair has to leave and I am left to introduce amendments myself.

And I do. And it is absolutely terrifying. And it goes fine. I make the points – albeit briefly in comparison to my learned other members – and get out alive. I have always been thrown in the deep end – seems to be my destiny. I remember becoming Leader of the Opposition on Haringey Council when I had only visited one meeting in my life. I became Chair of Transport on the London Assembly – when I had never chaired anything in my life!

It’s always terrifying – but it is the best way on this earth to learn. So I guess I was grateful – but it was (even for me) a testing experience.