Shocked, just totally shocked that an MP, going about her job has been killed in the UK. I’m not totally surprised. The febrile atmosphere from the media over the last few years about how ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. The hapless MPs who took the piss of the expenses regime. Both have worked together to give the impression that MPs are not people’s representatives but fair game for hate and bile.
OK. Hands up. I was married to an MP and I worked for the same MP. So, I might have a biased view. But anyway, here it goes.
Most people who go into politics do so because they want to make the place they live better. Some get the chance to do so. Some get the chance to move on and have the chance to make the place they live, or come to represent and then live, better. Being an MP is a thankless task. I know, I saw it from the inside. I had to fight to get my wife to take one Sunday a month off and go to the cinema or do something else human. Reading happened on holiday. Otherwise it was politics at work and home 24/7. Hey I’m not complaining, it was a great life. However, go shopping and you have people looking at you, what do you have in your shopping bag? A bottle of wine, oh must be a drunkard! Go to the cinema, oh you’re neglecting your work. Do we want robots or humans as our representatives?
That’s one of the first problems. Consult the supposed expert upon our constitution and the answer is the MPs are representatives. Not delegates. They are sent to Westminster to listen to the arguments and make an informed decision. Not to do what you want. Not to do what you thought they went there to do. They are not delegates. Representatives. Lots of times working for an MP I heard or read people say, I want the MP to do this, they are my representative, therefore they must do this. No.
But enough of getting things off my chest. The main point about this post was that, despite the cynicism about MPs, fed massively by the media, most are good, hard-working people who have only their constituents interests at heart. I say this of Tory MPs of my acquaintance just as much as Labour ones.
After the Cheltenham MP, Nigel Jones, was attacked by a constituent in his surgery, and his member of staff lost their life protecting him, a review was undertaken of the security of offices of MPs and their surgeries. The MP I worked for did not encourage people to come to our office and we were on the second floor, there was a well populated reception area of another organisation and people were welcomed there and not invited up, unless let into the building by some of the other, clueless, tenants of the building, so we could invite a member of the public into the foyer of the building, if we had to, and there were plenty of eyes looking at what was happening. That did not happen often.
Surgeries were different. People came, by appointment, and were alone with the MP and a member of staff. An essential requirement to make sure the MP could focus on the needs of the constituent, the member of staff could take notes, and that there was a witness and a written record in case any argument ensued about what happened afterwards. Initially these surgeries, in the case of the main local council area the MP represented, were stuck away in a room hidden at the back of the building. The room was small and it was only possible to organise it so the constituent came in and sat next to the door with the MP and member of staff facing them. If the constituent got agitated, upset, or, even worse, violent, there was no way past them. The MP and member of staff were stuck there. In a tiny room, out at the far distant edge of the building from the security or other member of staff. It must be OK we were told as that was what councillors did and previous MPs did. It must be OK, there was a telephone in the room. Yes, also behind the constituent. After what happened to Nigel Jones the office requested the council move the surgeries to somewhere they were overlooked, especially by their security staff and somewhere the MP could escape from easily. The council were not happy. It had always been fine for previous MPs and councillors, why change things now? The death of an MPs staff member and almost of the MP were not a strong enough argument. I know some of the members of the council would have been happy if a nutter had taken care of the MP, but that was not the reasoning of the body itself.
Fortunately we managed to get the local police onside and they recommended that a more publicly visible venue, overlooked by the council security be sought and it was. Security intervened in the case of an old man unhappy at losing what he thought had been left to him, someone known to the community and no threat, just prone to shouting when he got emotional and unhappy.
They were not to be seen, maybe checking the rest of the building, when a man came in to the surgery with two knives in his belt, complaining about a burger chain restaurant in a nearby town, that was crushing up beetles and putting them in his burgers to get him sexually excited. The man was listened to, an undertaking was given to look into his problem and he left. All the time the MP was nearest the door and I was between the man with two knives and her. I was glad he left happy as otherwise it was me between them.