Not for MPs
Perhaps it?s my age, but I have taken to giving advice to newbie MPs: Take one weekend off in 3 or 4. Like teachers and university lecturers, MPs get longish holidays. But Unlike most other people MPs generally work solidly at weekends too.
Each MP has a different way of doing things. My own pattern is to travel down to Westminster from Lichfield on a Sunday evening and return home on Thursday after Parliament has risen. Occasionally, I will be in the Chamber on a Friday, but these are private members? bills, not backed by the Government and most unlikely ever to become law. So I am usually in my constituency for 3 days a week. And there?s a lot to cram in.
Fridays are a good day to visit businesses and schools. On Saturdays I meet constituents and try and resolve their problems. I usually attend events on a Sunday too. Then it?s back down to London. Some MPs choose to worship in a different Church every Sunday morning – especially around election time – but I think that?s taking things too far! I try not to involve God too much in politics.
But constituency work is not just about planning rows, parking problems and complaints about the faceless bureaucracy of government departments. It can also shed a light on real life effects of decisions ultimately taken in Westminster.
In the last couple of weeks, I had a particularly interesting meeting in Lichfield with around two dozen local GPs. They broadly fell into two categories: the majority who volunteered interesting and positive suggestions as to how the NHS might be improved, and a few who just wanted a general moan. I?ll be following up the meeting with Health ministers and reporting back.
Last year I visited a local GP practice to see for myself the interaction with patients and some of the paperwork involved. Later this year, I?ll be visiting a rural GP practice. This sort of activity gives MPs a really useful insight into the issues which no amount of paper briefings can replace.
Back in Westminster, the latest phenomenon to assault MPs is the flood of identical emails usually beginning ?I feel passionate about??, but not so passionate that they can be bothered to write a personal email about the issue. These arise from campaign websites which enable constituents to click and email.
I care about some of the issues too: the plight of bees being killed off by pesticides. Others are just party political campaigns.
But I am determined that constituents who have real personal problems should not be squeezed out by the compulsive button clickers. Some click on every issue regardless of the topic even simultaneously taking opposing sides while ?feeling passionate? about it. I am hoping that repetitive strain injury might eventually reduce these emails.
Meanwhile, I walked into the Members? Tea Room to hear an earnest discussion over tea cakes on the subject of anal intercourse and the use of poppers. The House was about to debate the Psychoactive Substances Bill. I volunteered that I had once tried poppers, but that my bottom was still ?intacta? as I didn?t do that sort of thing. Or, as I put it, ?Mine is firmly for Brexit only?. The Tea Room went strangely quiet while some wondered what the European Referendum had to do with it.