It’s just over 100 days since I was elected and to say that it’s been a total whirlwind is an understatement.
A few days at the Labour conference has given me a bit of time to reflect on my first few months as one of the ‘new boys’ in Parliament.
Being elected as MP is one thing, but being thrust straight into the job as a new Member is something totally different.
I’ve often used the analogy of getting a job at Radio Tees and being shoved in the studio being told ‘get on with it’ without having a clue which buttons to press. That’s what it’s like as a new MP. It’s a case of ‘here’s the rules, here’s your laptop now just get on with it – oh, and by the way, you need to find somewhere to live in that there London!’.
In her maiden speech, Laura Pidcock compared Parliament to Hogwarts, and she was not very far off the mark.
It’s traditions are archaic, all of that bobbing up and down etc, and it’s like a massive, bizarre public school. Not that I have much experience of public schools.
With traditions going back hundreds of years, there are separate lifts, secret corridors, eateries, cloakrooms, and places like the famous Strangers Bar – all practically exclusively for MPs. It really is surreal for us ordinary working class Members.
Thankfully, I have a little haven in a one-bedroom flat in Pimlico that I’ve tried to make a home from home. Not brilliant for when family come, but good enough to disappear off to and get some peace after what is usually a very long day.
Never mind the rules and protocols of Parliament, actually getting around the place is exhausting and I’m still discovering new parts of it. This is usually because I fear being too far away from the Chamber for when the Division Bell clatters away!
I’ve cracked the basics though. I know where the toilets are (well most of them) and have a little office now to disappear to and crack on with my emails and research.
Being ‘sucked up the tube’ as I put it, has an impact on family life. The obvious one is that you are away from home most of the week and when you get back you’re working.
I am grateful that my family have adjusted well to everything and are very supportive. My mam has found a new hobby of watching Parliament TV and sending me texts, but apart from that we try to keep life as normal as possible.
Saying that, I’m still getting used to being noticed in the supermarket and having the craic with total strangers, but it’s a nice feeling. People are, by and large, very friendly, as is their nature in Hartlepool.
And that brings me to what’s impressed me most in the 100 days I’ve been an MP. It’s not everything I’ve done, every letter or email I’ve written, surgeries I’ve held or places I’ve visited. It’s the people of the town themselves – the genuine ones not the cyber warriors – the people who have put their faith in me and know that I’m trying to make a difference.
As I said in my maiden speech, I want to fly the flag for Hartlepool in Parliament and to be able to do that is the greatest honour.