A week on the go at Westminster
LAST week, after recess, I was pleased to be back at Westminster.
Monday morning, I deal with constituency correspondence. I get 1,200 pieces a month. Some constituents require a short email – others a substantial amount of casework.
Later, as his ministerial aid (or PPS), I support John Hayes MP, Minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change ('DECC') in a debate at the European Scrutiny Committee. My principal role is to source information for him during the session. I sit directly behind him and liaise with officials who sit close to me.
In the evening I have a meeting in the Commons with John and Greg Barker (another DECC Minister) to discuss the Energy Bill, one of the most important remaining in this parliament.
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Tuesday morning I meet with the two other DECC PPSs to discuss the business ahead. Later that morning it is over to Number 10 to meet the PM along with other PPSs. He provides a very useful hour-long meeting. I asked about issues around Scottish Independence, given his visit to Edinburgh the day earlier. Later, I immerse myself in the draft Energy Bill (305 pages) and the associated Select Committee report (of a similar size). There are votes during the afternoon and several visits to the Chamber.
On Wednesday I attend PMQs – the weekly clash between the PM and Ed Miliband. The atmosphere is charged with positive news on unemployment and Labour pressing for the Chief Whip's resignation. The afternoon is in the library and further work on the Energy Bill, correspondence and votes.
On Thursday morning there is an Urgent Question or 'UQ' on energy policy. Notice of these is always short and I rush to the Commons to meet with John and work on our statement. I support him in the Chamber – leaning forward from the bench behind to speak clearly into his right ear – he is deaf in his left. He does well and afterwards members on both sides congratulate him. John and I spend an hour discussing the media. Then officials join us for a briefing session for a three-hour debate in which John leads. Briefing over, we do the debate before I sit down with the head of my office and go through constituency matters. I then return home to write this piece.
Tomorrow is Friday and I am on an early train from Paddington for a packed two-day schedule in the constituency. I look forward to the train pulling away in the morning –Westminster is exhilarating but Central Devon is sanity. And the week, for me, will end on Saturday night followed by Sunday and some time in that most precious hinterland that is my wife and family.
Where do we begin?
Recently I visited Exeter School and also Channings Wood, a closed prison near Newton Abbot. At the school I took questions from the sixth form. I was struck by these students' knowledge of national affairs. In a world in which disengagement with politics seems to march ever on in one direction alone, it was refreshing to meet such switched-on young people.
My experience at the prison was equally rewarding. I joined a session called 'Belief in Change' in which prisoners close to release live, within the prison, with others who wish to turn their lives around. I learned pretty quickly that this is not an easy ride. Some here have done terrible things, have damaged others – yet in turn have been damaged themselves somewhere along the way. Examining their vulnerabilities is, for these prisoners, far braver than falling back on the lazy angry machismo that is the default for many inside.
More from Mel at melstridemp.com