I’ve been considering over the Summer recess period the expansive question: “What is the role of an MP?”
Once elected there is no handbook offered by Parliament or the political party. In some ways there cannot be – it is a position quite unlike any other. It is up to the MP to determine how to set up their operations from where to locate an office, which staff to recruit and how to allocate personal time. Some choose not to engage heavily in Westminster operations or national issues. Others prefer to focus exclusively on purely local issues. Neither paths are wrong.
Most, like me, try to find a balanced hybridisation of both. There is no single ‘boss’ or hierarchical tree, save for the structure of the political party and attempted influence of the Whips’ office; no human resources department and an MP cannot be sacked, except under circumstances of a Recall Petition, a fairly recent feature, triggered if the Committee on Standards considers a breach of behaviour, personal or financial so great that a suspension from Parliament of more than 10 days is appropriate. The now 28 years established Seven Principles of Public Life – the Nolan Principles are a good guide to what expected behaviour means. Under these recall procedures the decision to remove the MP goes back to the electorate as it should. The constituents are the collective ‘boss’.
If only it were that easily explained as the ebb and flow of popularity of the political banner under which the MP or candidate stands is more likely to determine political fate rather than perceptions of good/bad/hardworking/decent. Is it a ‘job’, a ‘career’? No, any MP who sees it as such should probably not be doing it.
I do focus on many national issues because national policies affect everybody’s lives, those in South Thanet, wider Kent or the country. It is for that reason that I have a lot to say about Brexit. It’s why I have a lot to say about illegal Channel crossings and migration. It’s why I have a lot to say about Net Zero and energy. It’s why I have a lot to say about the economy and taxation. I’ve been vocally against the London Mayor’s expanded ULEZ scheme because, although 70 miles away, this will negatively affect local businesses and residents in East Kent. Being an MP offers opportunities to be quoted and listened to across a wide range of issues. It doesn’t always follow that what I say will be universally well received!
The overspill of national issues into the lives of my constituents are obvious. Take one seemingly small matter. I supported my good friend Mark Francois MP’s Private Members Bill for the Regulation of Roadworks, to impose serious financial penalties on utility companies who overrun works. We’ve had to bear an extended period in and around Albion Street, Broadstairs for months as UK Power Networks do heaven knows what for an extended period detrimentally affecting residents and businesses. We all understand that works need doing from time to time and there is never a perfectly convenient time to do them but what infuriates us all is when we see jobs half-done, usually abandoned over weekends or nobody doing anything at all for long periods. This ought to be a simple irritant to change.
This week I have meetings with the Senior Management Team and Leader of Thanet District Council. I don’t hide my irritation that we’ve not, as yet, much to show for the £20m in Levelling Up funding for Ramsgate that I helped to secure, as an MP led grant. Next week is the official opening of Thanet Parkway station with the Railway Minister, Sussex MP Huw Merriman. A few years ago the last piece of the funding jigsaw, some £17m was still to be found else the project would fail. It was only after my Prime Minister’s Question in July 2020 that the required shortfall was agreed by the Department for Transport. We still wait a judicial decision on Manston.
My MP surgeries have continued across the Summer. My local office is always your best point of contact via telephone or to my email address.
Tel: Westminster – 0207 219 4442
Constituency – 01843 603242