As soon as the election result is announced, that’s it. You’re the MP. It’s pretty brutal in some ways – the outgoing MP has to make his or her staff redundant and contact everyone whom they are helping in casework, to let them know and ask them if they want their case passed on to the new MP. I want to thank Stephen Williams and his team for all they have done for Bristol West and for making the transition as smooth as they can.
However, this isn’t what I’d hoped for – obviously I wanted to be part of a Labour MP team with a Labour government. I wanted to help deal with the chronic housing crisis facing the whole of the constituency, across all levels of income – whether it’s you who is waiting for council housing or your daughter or son or grandchild who can’t get somewhere decent to live because of the high price of rent or buying. I wanted to help deal with unequal distribution of opportunities by working with local employers and our business team to get decently paid apprenticeships with a future sorted out for our young people. I wanted to be the team scrapping the bedroom tax and private letting agency fees for tenants, promoting a decent landlords’ charter and generally trying to help reform the private rented sector – and I wanted to work with social housing organisations, homebuilders and training colleges to get us building and re-furbing, and creating jobs in the process.
So although it’s not a Labour government, I’ve spent the last few weeks sorting out what I can do even in these circumstances. And I’m getting on with the job. I’m getting on top of casework, with the help of excellent temporary staff who can help me to set up my office and start helping people in need in the constituency. I’ve got sworn in and will be making my maiden speech next week so I can get on with being vocal in the House of Commons and holding this government to account for every act of omission and commission they do which harms people and our future. I’ve met with key housing organisations and am organising a Bristol West housing summit, to bring together those who can help to sort out as much of the housing problem as we can – and I’ve already got support from key people.
I’ve analysed the Queen’s Speech and I’ll be speaking out on the Tory government’s appalling and badly thought through plan to introduce “right to buy” for housing association tenants, which will rob us of social housing, cost local councils money they don’t have and create further division and reduce the availability of affordable housing even further. I’ll also be speaking out about many other aspects – and challenging them every step of the way for the next five years to think again when they are doing things which cause harm.
I’ve been out on the main shopping streets speaking to shoppers and traders, particularly in Gloucester Road, Church Road and St Mark’s Road, but elsewhere as well, to find out what immediate concerns people have and also to introduce myself. I’ve collected up various suggestions and ideas from these conversations – thanks to all who have given me your time and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have more thoughts on how we can improve our city together.
I’ve participated in community meetings, dealt with police and public during a serious incident last week, with the help of Councillor Afzal Shah, sorted out many meetings with community organisations across the constituency over the next few weeks. I’m enormously fortunate to be the MP for such an interesting constituency with people who are so willing to work together, with me and with others, to improve Bristol.
I’ve researched which All-Party Parliamentary groups and select committees I want to put myself forward for in order to promote the concerns of people of Bristol West as well as use my existing skills and knowledge to contribute to good policy making.
I’ve responded to very many individual people already who have phoned me to tell me of problems they are having with housing, immigration or debt – and I’m sorting out the tools my team and I need to start going out in the constituency to knock on doors and offer that help proactively.
I’ve not prioritised all the very many emails I get as a result of people using websites such as 38 degrees or other campaigning organisations, as I’ve had to concentrate on immediate needs to serve the people of Bristol West even without having my constituency office or staff. But I’m starting to get on top of them too, and I appreciate the patience you are showing if you are one of them – rest assured I share your concerns and I am going to be blogging about all the topics you’ve raised over the next few weeks. If you want to know what I think on a policy area, you may well find that my blog is a good place to start.
So, what’s next? My maiden speech next week – and then I am able to speak in the House of Commons. Look out for me on ParliamentTV if you like that sort of thing, probably Tuesday afternoon. I’ll tweet in advance to let you all know. Getting my regular constituency surgery sorted out, which will be Fridays and some weekends, but don’t hold back if you need help urgently now. Just email me on email@example.com
And the Labour leadership contest is certainly hotting up, giving us a chance to consider how we review our recent election performances, both successful and unsuccessful, and how we win the next General election, so we can make the country fairer, take on the urgent crises of climate change, inequality, poverty and lack of housing. There’s so much to do, Labour MPs won’t be waiting till the next election to work on them – and if you’d like to be involved in what I’m doing here in Bristol West, just get in touch.
If you voted for me, thanks for the confidence you have shown in me – and if you didn’t vote for me, I’m still YOUR MP, and will fight for everyone in our constituency locally and nationally, as hard as I can.