This article was written for Local View.
At one time it was all too common for MPs to only visit their constituencies from time to time. Indeed, I recall a story of one MP, who shall remain nameless, who had a pantomime sketch made about him in his constituency. It was called “Have you seen your MP?” The MP in question had represented the area for well over 30 years, had a huge majority and only visited his constituency a few times a year.
Today, things are very different. People expect their MPs to live in the area they represent and spend much of their time, when not in Westminster, attending to issues in the constituency. This is how it should be.
I am more than happy for example to live in Caerphilly and I have an office in Bedwas with dedicated members of staff. They work tirelessly on constituency casework when I am in Parliament and during the weekends I hold regular advice surgeries (which are usually full), meet people when I knock doors, and I really enjoy attending various social events and concerts.
Increasingly though I find myself spending time with my elderly mother. She is 88 years of age and lives near Bridgend. The care she has is excellent but, as my father passed away some years ago and I am the only child, I devote an increasing amount of time to making sure she is ok and generally caring for her. I know that many people are in a similar position to myself.
To live in the “real world” and to listen to and experience the sort of issues which people are concerned about is, in my view, crucial to being an effective MP. Aneurin Bevan once said that good parliamentary representation meant being “in touch with people’s realities”. He was right. Having roots firmly in the area you represent not only makes you aware of the day-to-day concerns of people but it also influences the issues you take up in Parliament. In my view, this is all about breaking down the divide between those who people often call “politicians” and the people who they seek to represent.