A recess is defined as the “temporary cessation of the activities of an engagement, occupation or pursuit”. Well, having now seen a year’s worth of Parliamentary recesses it is clear to me that our recesses might well mean that Parliament isn’t sitting but that doesn’t mean the work of an MP stops!
Of course this summer has been more exceptional than most with the recall of Parliament. It was a very strange experience to be on holiday abroad one day enjoying the sun and then to be sitting in the House of Commons trying to catch the Speaker’s eye the next day. The fact that so many MPs were able to get to Westminster does, I hope, show the public that we take our responsibility to speak up on behalf of our constituents very seriously. We all know that politicians have had a somewhat tarnished reputation over the past few years and I think all MPs in this current Parliament are keen to play their part in shedding that reputation.
The assumption that a recess is actually a holiday is to mis-understand the role of a 21st century MP. There is quite a debate to be had about what an MP is elected to do but it is clear that the days of rarely visiting the constituency whilst hoping the electorate might remember what we have done in Westminster every four or five years are, rightly, long gone.
I always say when I visit local schools and community organisations that MPs have at least two jobs and possibly more if they also hold ministerial or shadow ministerial office. First, we are elected by our constituents to represent them (as well as the constituency more generally) in Westminster. Equally important is our role in sorting out the many thousands of different cases, queries and problems which constituents raise with us and our offices – and those issues certainly don’t stop just because Parliament is in recess.
In order to perform the first role properly it is essential for me to get out and about in my constituency and that is where the Parliamentary recess is so welcome. When Parliament is sitting we have to try and cram everything into our Fridays. If that includes a surgery it doesn’t leave much time for the visits to schools, community groups, businesses and anyone else who wants to see us. To have whole days and weeks to do visits and hold meetings is a luxury as it means I’m not running frantically from event to event.
In the first fortnight of the recess I had meetings with the new Chairman of Loughborough’s Chamber of Commerce, attended a graduation ceremony at Loughborough University, visited Carillon Cricket Club, LOROS Hospice, Charnwood Stroke Club, the Amazons Youth Project, Leicester Samaritans, the Thorpeacre Fun Day, Loughborough’s very colourful Mela and the Charnwood 2011 International Scout and Guide Jamboree.
I also attended various meetings on local health matters and with the Leader and Chief Executive of Charnwood Borough Council as well as volunteering at the LOROS shop for an afternoon recently.
Life as an MP is lived at different paces throughout the year. Recess is just when an MP does their job at a slightly different speed than normal!