When you become a Member of Parliament there is no job description. We are left to judge for ourselves how best to divide our time between London and the constituency.
On Monday mornings I drive from Dorset to London, and usually catch up on the news or a podcast on the way. I sometimes use the time to call my office staff to discuss upcoming meetings and appointments, so that I know what’s happening in the week ahead. Once in London, I head to the first meeting of the day. Now that I am a Parliamentary Private Secretary (effectively a glorified bag carrier!), this may be with the Ministers in my Department, to prepare for the week’s debates, or with the team in my office to ensure we are as ready as we can be for the week ahead. On other days this might be a meeting with constituents or schools who have come to Westminster, or perhaps with a charity who want to highlight their work in Dorset or the South West. After this I pick up some briefings from my staff, and I try to head to the library.
Parliament is a very busy place, and there are always many hundreds of people bustling around. The Members’ Library is a quiet oasis which is ideal for studying draft legislation, reading briefings and for writing speeches. Before I speak in the House, I like to be well prepared, and this takes time.
At some point I eat my sandwiches or occasionally a salad. There is no set lunchtime and the House sits throughout the day, but at different times depending upon the day. Monday 2.30pm (to allow Members to travel in from constituencies) until 10.30pm; Tuesday and Wednesday 11.30 am until 7.30pm; Thursday 9.30am until 5.30pm; and on 13 sitting Fridays per year 9.30am until 2.30pm. There is a health warning for these timings though: for certain Bills there is no debating time limit and the House can sit until any hour, as it has in recent Brexit and Finance debates, or indeed right through the night until the next day!
As I walk between the Chamber and various meetings I may return a call from the constituency office – my caseworker wants some advice on how to progress a tricky case, and we agree to meet the constituents concerned in a surgery at the end of the week.
Walking into the House of Commons Chamber still gives me a thrill as well as a sense of responsibility, and it is an honour to be able to walk into such a special place where our country's leaders have debated and decided our laws over the years. When full, it can be a struggle to find a place to sit – there is only enough seating for around 450 people although there are 650 MPs!
If I have been drawn in the ballot to ask a question or if I have put in to speak in a debate, I need to be ready when the speaker calls me. During debates, the time limit for speeches is often amended – so I may have to cut my carefully crafted 10 minute speech down to 7 minutes, then 6, then 5. If another MP intervenes, I may gain an additional minute – but the most important thing is to get my point across clearly and succinctly. Whilst in the chamber I might also scan through my emails again for anything urgent. The division bell rings when it’s time to vote, and we all file through the lobbies to be counted. Each vote takes about 15 minutes, and there are often several votes, so it can be a long drawn-out process.
Debates can go on until quite late and so once I have voted, I head straight back to my flat in London before returning bright and early the next morning. No day in Parliament is ever the same, but I try to make the most of all my time here.