Working in Westminster
Sun 1 Jul 2012
By Mel Stride
A question I am often asked is “what is it like working up in Westminster?” This issue I thought I would try and give you an insight.
In Parliament I work on correspondence, liaise with my office on important constituency casework (which might be anything from assisting someone who is about to lose their home, needs a life-prolonging drug but can not get it, or is a farmer having problems with the RPA), to general enquiries on policy (I get a vast amount of correspondence asking for my views on everything from Law and Order to Afghanistan). I process around 2,000 pieces of correspondence a month.
I also vote on various legislative committees. These can last anything from half an hour to several hours over a number of days. I also attend and speak in the main Chamber and within Westminster Hall.
At Westminster I meet constituents, lobby groups and representatives of organisations that are important to my constituency. These groups have included the police, farmers, councillors and officers from the 5 local authorities that cover the constituency. Amongst my favourite visitors are groups of Central Devon school children.
I also give quite a lot of interviews in Westminster. Sometimes live, sometimes pre-recorded. At the time of writing this article I did a live radio interview on Radio Devon at 7:30am on a major planning issue affecting Buckfastleigh and later on the same day gave a pre-recorded interview to discuss the latest national economic figures. My ITV interview for the early evening news – due to be live was cancelled at the last minute.
I also read as much as I can in the House of Commons Library and often place questions with library researchers. I read not just the newspapers but internet news and blogs (to keep right up to date). I do a lot of this web-based reading on my iphone including during my bus journey to and from Parliament. I also read a lot of policy papers especially in the areas of education and business which are the two Departments that I am attached too as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to our FE and Skills Minister.
I spend quite a lot of time within the BIS Department and the Education Department (both around 10 minutes walk from Parliament). I meet with Ministers, Special Advisors and the Secretaries of State regularly. I help prepare my Minister for his appearances in the Commons (including Parliamentary Questions, debates, statements and committees) and support him by providing him with information when he is at the despatch box or taking questions. I also act as a liaison between MPs of all parties and my minister. So I am regularly approached by other MPs for information or with an issue they wish me to take up on their behalf. I attend a fortnightly meeting at 10 Downing Street to discuss policy and related issues.
Interestingly one question I am never asked is “what do you do in your spare time.”
Jubilee and Olympics
By the time you read this the Queen’s big jubilee weekend celebrations will be over. I will have eaten countless sandwiches at street parties, fetes and flower shows right across the constituency. I will also have joined in the fun at 3 of my 43 primary shools and shared with local children the excitement and celebration of this important landmark in our history.
And celebrate we should. Queen Elizabeth II is only the second monarch to have occupied the throne for a 60 year period, the other being Queen Victoria who celebrated her own Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Her reign was for 64 years and our Queen is set to break this record in just 4 years time. Given that the Queen Mother lived until 101 I suspect the Queen will achieve this with ease. Interestingly, of our monarchs it has often been the women who have served longest and with greatest distinction including Elizabeth I, Victoria and our present Queen. There are moves to change the rules of succession so that the firstborn child of William and Kate will automatically be first in line to the throne irrespective of gender. I support this entirely and look forward to voting through this change when it comes before Parliament.
This year will also be the third in which we host the Olympics. We did so in 1908 and in 1948 - the first televised games. These games will use that same medium to project themselves to half the planet – over 4 billion people.
So after the excitement of the Jubilee celebrations we can settle down to enjoying the olmpics. I have no doubt that we will put on the greatest games that the world has seen and I am looking forwarding to watching as much as time allows.
For feedback and to complete my online survey please visit www.melstridemp.com
Other columns by Mel Stride
Busy right across the constituency - Tue 9 Nov 2021
Investing in local public services - Mon 2 Aug 2021
Corona - A year on - Mon 14 Jun 2021
Supporting our Local Communities in difficult times - Mon 1 Mar 2021
The PM’s first year - Thu 1 Oct 2020
Quizzing the PM - Tue 7 Jul 2020
It’s the economy, stupid! - Tue 11 Feb 2020
Vision for the Future - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Into the Cabinet - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Local Apprenticeships Matter - Fri 3 May 2019
Huge shot in the arm for our High Streets - Thu 24 Jan 2019
Reading - Thu 8 Nov 2018
EU - In or Out? - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Opportunity. - Tue 22 Jan 2013
Where do we begin? - Tue 13 Nov 2012
To Infinity and Beyond - Wed 5 Sep 2012
A Better Balance - Thu 5 Jan 2012
Capital Shame - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Olympic Feat... - Sun 11 Sep 2011
The Coalition - A year on - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Labour Dreams - Sun 17 Apr 2011
Now we really must mean Business - Thu 10 Mar 2011
Freedom and Responsibility - Sun 9 Jan 2011
A leader for Labour - Thu 4 Nov 2010
Education and Freedom - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Tradition and Words - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Mel Stride - Early Days in Westminster - Tue 6 Jul 2010
Mel Stride Conservative Parliamentary Candidate on The Big Society - Mon 3 May 2010
A look back over my years as Conservative parliamentary candidate and contributor to The Cottage - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Building the homes of the Future means giving Power to the People - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Early memories... - Wed 4 Nov 2009
As General Franco lay dying... - Tue 20 Oct 2009