Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

MPs on holiday: the truth about what they really get up to

MPs are now in recess. Again. Cue plenty of moans about them escaping the zombie parliament and jetting off on holiday. There’s not much you can do about the former, but the latter is not, as any MP will angrily remind you, quite true. If you’re a type with a big majority who is a bit fonder of the Westminster game than you are of your constituents, then a holiday might be an option. But at this time of year, MPs are more likely to be found canvassing for the European and local elections, or holding extra constituency surgeries to catch up on time lost to Parliament.

The Conservative whips have told MPs, via one of their many text messages that they send throughout each day, that they are expected to visit Newark three times before the by-election, and that few exemptions will be allowed. Some MPs are planning to exempt themselves from this. One tells me that ‘I have no desire to be promoted, so I don’t need to get extra points on their little list of visits.’

But what’s life like for those plugging away back in their own constituencies? I wrote a blog a while back on the weird things parliamentarians are asked for help with, but more often than not, constituency surgeries are quite dispiriting affairs, as most people who come along for a meeting with their MP are in a dreadful tangle, often as a result of something the state has done to them.

I recently accompanied Labour MP Tristram Hunt on one of his constituency surgeries in Stoke-on-Trent. It was a textbook surgery, held at a small trestle table in a huge gymnasium.

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