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Stephen PHILLIPS There were only four maiden speeches from new Conservative MPs yesterday, the first of which came from Stephen Phillips, the new MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham in Lincolnshire.

He paid a warm tribute to his predecessor, Douglas Hogg, and concluded that his new constituents

"were evidently satisfied with the make and model that they had returned to the House for the past 30 years, for they have chosen as their new MP another silk — another dinosaur — and another Member with a wife cleverer and more successful than he is. As Douglas himself has put it,

“the old banger must have been pretty sound for them to have chosen the same make and model again.”

"I caution, though, and certainly add at this juncture that the unoriginal question that has occurred to wags on both sides of the House receives the answer no. I leave that as a puzzle perhaps for my successors, but given that I represent Sleaford and North Hykeham and follow Mr Hogg, many Members will know what question has arisen in their minds."

Moat-related jokes aside, he went on to address the issue under discussion during the first of two debates yesterday, namely the Middle East:

"Members on both sides of the House well know the physical suffering that the continued blockade of Gaza is causing to a civilian population already laid low by the effective destruction of its infrastructure. Members obviously recognise the unsustainable policies that have been pursued in the past by the Government of Israel, of which I count myself a considerable friend, but which have, whether we like it or not, had the effect of entrenching a de facto Government with a vested financial interest in the maintenance of the tunnel economy that has been created by the blockade.

"My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) spoke about building materials. There is no shortage of building materials available to Hamas. The leaders of Hamas, should they wish to, construct villas, as they do, and have no problem getting cement through the tunnels. It is even possible to get a 4×4 through them. The argument that the blockade is based on the security of Israel is, I am afraid, fallacious, and I join other Members in saying that it should quickly be abandoned. Israel should concentrate on its strengths and on the values that it offers and demonstrates to the world.

"Members on all sides have also been appalled, as have I, by the inability of the Palestinian Government, of whatever colour, to offer security to Israel. There is only one way forward—the two-state solution. Change has to come to Gaza and to the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories established under the Oslo accords. Change is something that we all talked about during the election, but this is a change that is desired by the vast majority of the civilian population throughout the middle east, and indeed in Palestine and in Israel, and is supported by the Government here as well as by our allies, as resolution 1860 demonstrates. It is that resolution with which Israel would do well to comply, as long as, of course, its security is guaranteed, and for that reason I hope that in this Parliament we will have the opportunity of seeing some form of lasting peace — the lasting peace that has for so long evaded previous Administrations in this House and indeed across the world."

Jonathan Isaby

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