Life in Westminster can be hectic. Ipswich MP, Sandy Martin, gives a flavour of a working day.
One of the most difficult aspects of being an MP is making sure I attend the things I need to attend, and focusing on things where I can make a difference. Some days I manage to write a significant number of letters, contact people about issues, and make progress on my priorities for Ipswich. Some days I rush from one place to another, keen not to keep people waiting or miss an opportunity – Wednesday was one of those.
I started the day reading the briefing for my morning meeting, then popped in to my Westminster office to run through the day’s events with my assistant and make sure I was prepared. Then off to the Committee examining petitions on stage 2 of the High Speed Rail line – from Stafford to Crewe – which I am not doing because I want to but because I have been allocated to it by the House of Commons.
At 11am I joined fellow MPs in a Fairtrade fortnight debate, making the case to the new Minister for encouraging people to buy goods which are not produced by slave labour or by trashing the planet. A particular point is that some gold is mined by reputable companies which pay decent wages whereas some mines treat their workforce and the environment with utter contempt – nobody wants to give their loved-one a ring that has been created out of misery and destruction, and people need to be able to tell whether they are helping to make the world a better place or not. I pointed out the role that Councils can play in promoting Fairtrade – I was proud to have proposed the motion which made Ipswich a Fairtrade town back in 2013.
Then I had 2 votes to cast – one to require the government to be more open and the other to prevent yet another hike in the cost of passports – unfortunately we lost both, a sad reminder that we can’t make decisions which benefit the citizens of this country until we are in government. And then Prime Minister’s Question Time, which I’m not sure about, but I suppose it does show that we are holding the government to account.
Then I met Rob whose company Big Drop is brewing excellent low-alcohol beers locally. After tasting some of his wares, I made a pitch for him to move his business into Ipswich if and when he expands – the role of advocate for the town is a very important one, and I try not to let any opportunity slip. Then off to film an interview about being a new MP, and a short piece for Anglia television about how the work now started on the Winerack shows that Ipswich is on the up, and the important part the Borough Council has played in making that happen.
I just had time to pop into a British Council event to register my support for their programme to encourage future leaders, before the most important meeting of the day, to decide the final report on Air Quality. The Royal College of Physicians reckons that 40,000 people a year die in the UK because of polluted air. I have campaigned for cleaner air and less traffic congestion in Ipswich for years, and I had an amendment to strengthen the report which I am pleased to say was approved by the committee.
And then to the Education Centre for a Q&A session with Halifax School pupils on a tour of Parliament. I really hope that they keep their enthusiasm as they grow up – who knows, one of them could be a future MP for Ipswich.
Finally, a rather sad but very necessary reception with the Samaritans alongside Greater Anglia, trying to reduce the number of people who take their own lives on the railway. One of my friends killed himself that way a few years ago, and I know how devastating such a loss can be to friends and family. Very often the right words from someone at the scene can make the difference between a tragic death and another chance at life. The people I spoke to are helping to make that happen, but we all need to look out for each other.
Amongst all that I managed a few phone calls and emails, but if I didn’t get back to you about something you have contacted me about, please be patient – I will try very hard to reply to everyone, but on some days there really isn’t much time!