By Lynne Jones MP
The work of an MP is both fascinating and mundane. If done
properly, its a hard slog and work can easily take over your life. I try to
compartmentalise my life between the time spent at Westminster (usually Monday to
Thursday) and at home in the constituency where I have an office with two staff who mostly
help me deal with constituents personal problems. There is no such thing as a
typical day in the life of an MP but I hope what follows will give a flavour of the work I
do. The day in question is 4 June:
It was a mistake to stay at home reading yesterdays
papers, as what started out as a dry morning turned to rain as I set off for Westminster
on my bike. Too vain to put on my waterproof trousers, I arrive with jeans sopping
wet but soon change into MPs uniform from the selection of outfits stored in
my office. The bell goes at 11.30 am for the start of the parliamentary day and
there is just time to detect newly arrived emails from amongst the SPAM, check which new
Early Day Motions I want to sign (the equivalent of MPs supporting one anothers
petitions) and deal with phone messages. Then its a dash to the Commons
Chamber for Prime Ministers Questions and Blairs statement following the
weekends G8 Summit.
Tony Blair faces questions about whether he mislead the House on
Iraqs WMD capability, but the Speaker does not call me, so my question on whether
the weapons inspectors were given access to the same intelligence sources available to the
PM goes unasked. He has previously avoided answering this question in
One of my earlier phone calls was to agree an interview with the
German state TV, so I rush back to my office in Portcullis House where filming is to take
place and bolt down a sandwich while the TV crew set up. The female interviewer
tries to get me to say that I dont trust Blair. The furthest Im able to go is
to say I dont trust the spin he puts on the information he presents. The
filming goes on far too long with the same questions being put in different ways and then
they want me to film me in the Palace. I make them wait while I respond to more
phone messages and then allow them to accompany me to Central Lobby where I have arranged
an interview with a journalist covering one of our local radio stations who has noticed
some questions I have asked about asylum seekers.
I arrive back in the Chamber just as the Foreign Secretary has
almost finished his speech in response to a Lib Dem-initiated debate in which they call
for an independent enquiry into the handling of intelligence on Iraqs WMD.
Robin Cooks comment as I sit nearby suggests he is less than impressed with his
successors performance. I decide to wait to hear Clare Short who is likely to
be called soon after Shadow Foreign Secretary, Michael Ancram. Amongst other things,
Clare accuses the PM of misrepresenting the French President. Why didnt she
listen to me when I said as much in the debate prior to the decision to go to war?
Realising my chances of being called to speak are negligible, I
now have the choice of going for a swim (Im a member of a health club across the
road from Parliament) or going to a meeting for Labour MPs who want to campaign for a
referendum on the European Constitution, with which I have some sympathy.
The swimming option wins. Pounding up and down the pool, I
realise I forgot to pay yesterdays congestion charge, so resign myself to the
expected fine. I hurry back to the House in time for the vote even though Im
abstaining. Its a gesture vote of no significance and I tend only to support
opposition proposals if theyre on legislation. However I want to abstain publicly.
The next debate of this Lib Dem opposition day is on pensions,
on which I have a particular interest and write regular articles for Pensions Management.
Once again I find myself in agreement but theres no opportunity to speak.
I do manage to intervene on the Minister winding up, so at least there will be a
record that I was present even though I do not vote.
Half listening to the speeches, I sign letters, check through
correspondence to be forwarded to the constituency, then nip out to catch the 6pm post.
The days formalities finish around 7.30pm but having been away from my desk most of
the day, I know I have too much work to allow myself the luxury of a meal and a catch up
on the gossip in the members dining room (I try to do this a t least once a week) so
I grab some food in the excellent cafeteria in Portcullis House. Back in the office,
I make myself some coffee and get down to the paperwork on my desk and dealing with new
email arrivals. First I return a phone call from a Sunday Times journalist who wants
to talk about expected legislation to give transsexual people full civil rights in their
reassigned gender. I have been campaigning for this since 1992. Its 1am
before I complete the days post which includes a letter from the AUT about the
proposed closure of NIMR at Mill Hill asking me to sign an EDM condemning the MRCs
decision in the absence of consultation with the employees.
The weather is fine as I cycle home. Sipping a hot drink
in bed, my last job of the day is to dictate the notes that form the basis of this
Though I attribute my enquiring mind to my scientific
background, this is a quality that is a mixed blessing in politics where preferment tends
to be determined by a willingness to adhere to the currently fashionable party line.
As I am unable to bullshit, my chances of progression from the back benches are
negligible, though my ability to expose this quality in others does help me maintain a
reasonably high profile. There are no specific qualifications for an MP but you have to
first persuade a political party to adopt you as its candidate and then the electorate to
vote for you and then keep voting for you. Some do this by charisma - in my
case its been sheer hard work building up peoples trust. Trust is very
important in trying to convince constituents of the potential benefits of scientific
knowledge! The jobs insecure but the pays better than being on soft
money in academia. Its a good idea to keep reasonably fit and your appearance
presentable. Take on good staff and be nice to them and dont lose your temper
with awkward constituents.
£56,358 plus up to £20K for the additional cost of
having a second home and a 56.1p a mile car allowance. There are also allowances for
employing staff and for office running costs, which I find inadequate.
Lynne is 52 and has a PhD in Biochemistry on inositol lipids and
cell signalling, publishing several papers in the 1970s. From 1980 she was a
councillor and, between 1984 to 1987, Chair of Birminghams Housing Committee.
Her last job before being elected MP for Birmingham Selly Oak in 1992 was in housing
management. She was a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee between 1992
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