A great deal of time, effort and public money goes into the selection and election of each local MP who promises to serve their local community until the next election. Depending on ones circumstances the role is relatively well paid, although it does not carry an obvious job description and it is almost without boundary. The idea that an MP will represent his or her voters first and foremost is something that many do claim, but there are far too many examples of local MPs simply deserting their post, depending of course on ones point of view. An MP who chose to stay away from the House of Commons for long periods but instead spent their time in the constituency, meeting constituents and helping to resolve their concerns and complaints might become very popular with voters, but soon lose the confidence of their colleagues in the party. They would in any case soon fall foul of the websites that calculate how many debates and votes the MP has attended (or missed). By contrast if the MP spent most of their time in Westminster, took long holidays when Parliament is on recess and more or less ignored the idea that they could hold constituency surgeries, they might lose the support of the floating voters in the constituency but if their core vote was strong enough, they might be able to weather the storm.
One of my personal concerns is the extent to which MPs are prone to desert both Westminster and their constituency, to assist a colleague fight a by-election in another constituency. This seems to be a strange way of serving constituents, although it is clearly an attempt to serve the party. One could argue that if there is not sufficient support locally, then the imposition of a phalanx of MPs from other areas shows that the Political Party is misusing our resources. The MP would presumably either be working or resting if not on the campaign trail elsewhere. Alternatively the acceptance of jobs that have no real relevance to their role as an MP are also matters that should be a concern to the constituents.
Two Sussex MPs have been in the public domain in recent days, telling us all of their absence from their posts as MP. Neither to my knowledge have requested permission nor given notice to their constituents, the people they claim to represent.
Henry Smith has been in Rochester and Strood, along no doubt with many other MPs attempting to ensure that the seat stays Blue. When I questioned this on twitter he wrote:
“I work for the national interest, in Crawley, Rochester, Westminster, everywhere I can.” of course the national interest is code for the interest of the Conservative party, but then because Henry is an active member of the Party, he would say that. Other people including many in Crawley hold different views but Henry is not going to change his behaviour for them.
The second Sussex MP is Greg Barker. Greg is MP for Bexhill and was until recently a Minister in the Government. According to this news report he has just accepted a job from Boris Johnson to head up Londons Sustainable Development Commission. This is an important job because London is one of the nations most polluting regions. However the role has absolutely nothing to do with either Bexhill and Battle or even Westminster. It shouldn’t even have anything to do with the Conservative Party. However perhaps Greg knows better.
In May we get to elect an MP for the 5 years till 2020. Perhaps we should ask them how they plan to deal with any unexpected absences from work. Who will they communicate with and how will they make their decisions. We may need to prepare for a disappointing answer.