New kids on the blog

My colleague Jamie Reed has just popped into the whips office and told me off for not having looked at his blog yet: so here it is, and very excellent it is too. My colleague Andrew Gwynne has also been nagging me from his sickbed to give his new blog for Think Politics a plug.

I particularly like Andrew’s post on whether being local makes for being a better MP…

One of my opponents at the General Election is making great play of her local credentials. The front of her leaflet proclaims her “the local candidate” and another headline inside says “working and living locally”. Not quite sure living in Westbury-on-Trym counts as “local” in east Bristol, but leaving that to one side… Does it actually matter?

I’m not from Bristol. I’ve never pretended to be. But I have lived in my constituency for the past five years. (I won’t technically be in the constituency any longer after boundary changes, but the layout of the new Bristol East means that where I am – Redcliffe – is actually more convenient for both ends of the constituency, as well as for all the meetings I have in the city centre. And it seemed a bit silly to move somewhere five minutes down the road just so I could still say “I live in my constituency.” But you won’t get me putting out leaflets during the campaign pretending otherwise).

Over the past five years as the MP for Bristol East I’ve handled hundreds of cases through my constituency office in St George, and responded to thousands of emails, letters and phone calls on local issues, or national issues which local people care passionately about. I’ve held surgeries, knocked on doors, accepted invitations to virtually every event I’ve been invited to, unless I really, really couldn’t make it. I’ve visited schools, health centres, children’s centres, care homes. I’ve met with business people, community groups, public sector workers, faith groups… And I’ve done something afterwards, whether it be collaring Ministers in the division lobby to bend their ear, or writing to the authorities, or lending my support in whatever way I’m asked. Most of this goes unreported, except on my website. In fact there’s still a lot that doesn’t make it onto there, either because it’s confidential (virtually all casework), or would suffer from being made public, or because I just haven’t got round to doing it. Perhaps not being from Bristol made a difference at the start, meant I had a bit of catching up to do… but it seems a bit silly to be playing the “I’m local” card against someone who has represented the area for the past five years.

P.S. Although I do know who Bill Shankly is – how could anyone brought up on John Peel not know? – I confess, I’d be hard pressed to name many Bristol City or Bristol Rovers players… might just Google it before the hustings start!

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