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The Changing Role of an MP

The Changing Role of an MP


1. Expectation

Constituents are rightly confused at the many and varied “elected” representatives that exist:

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)

  • Elected no longer on a constituency basis but on a “List” system for regions of England and the nations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • Elected every four years; next elections due 2008.
  • We have 10 MEPs for the South East comprising 4 Tories, 2 Lib Dems, 1 UKIP, 1 Green, 1 Labour and 1 Independent

For further information:
www.europarl.org.uk_meps/southeast.asp
www.eu

Derek wants MEPs to have to return to their respective Parliaments once a month instead of going to Strasbourg.

Members of Parliament (MPs)

  • 646 elected by constituency.
  • The Prime Minister retains the power to call General Elections though they must happen every five years but they can be called at any time before then. The general rule is that when you are confident on winning you call them every four years – e.g. 1979-1983 (won); 1983-1987 (won); 1997-2001(won); 2001-2005 (won) but note five years - 1974-79 (lost); 1987-92 (won) and 1992-1997 (lost).
  • Given the Labour Government will have a new Prime Minister in 2007, it is likely, but who knows, that the next General Election will be 2009.
  • The Labour Government’s current majority in the House of Commons is 67
  • Labour has 352 MPs, the Conservative’s have 196 and the Lib Dems 63
  • Kent & Medway have 10 Tory and 7 Labour MPs

Derek has won three successive elections in 1997, in 2001 and in 2005

For more information:
www.electoralcommission.org.uk
www.parliament.uk/directories/directories.cfm
www.direct.gov.uk

County or Unitary councillors (Kent & Medway)

  • Elected every four years; the next Kent one is due in 2009
  • Kent has 57 Tory, 21 Labour and 6 Lib Dem councillors
  • Sheppey has one Labour and one Tory councillor
  • Sittingbourne has one Labour and two Tory councillors

For more information:
www.kcc.gov.uk
www.lga.gov.uk
www.info4local.gov.uk
www.idea-knowledge.gov.uk
www.local.gov.uk

Borough or District councillors (Swale)

Largely elected a third every year with a spare year when there are no elections (a real mess which is being resolved and will soon be the same four year rotation as county councillors).

Next Borough elections May, 2007

  • Swale has 26 Tory, 10 Labour, 6 Lib Dem, 5 Sheppey First (inc. an Independent)
  • Faversham has 12 Tories
  • Sittingbourne has 10 Tory, 5 Labour, 5 Lib Dems and an Independent
  • Sheppey has 5 Labour, 4 Tory, 4 Sheppey First and 1 Lib Dems

For more information:
www.swale.gov.uk
www.sittingbourneandsheppeylabour.org.uk

Parish councillors (Sittingbourne & Sheppey)

Locally, we have parish councils for:

* all have web pages on www.kentparishes.gov.uk e.g. www.bobbingpc.kentparishes.co.uk

Queenborough representing Halfway and Rushenden also has a Town council
See: www.queenboroughtc.kentparishes.co.uk

There are no town or parish councils for Sheerness, Milton Regis, Kemsley or Murston

For further information:
www.nalc.gov.uk
www.kapc.org.uk

2. How do I find out about my MP?

There are a number of good web sites that provide information about your MP; some will tell you how they voted, others will tell you how quick or slow they are at responding to requests and others will give you information about their Office costs and salaries.

Try:

www.parliament.uk – for information about Parliament, expenses and member interests (which have to be registered)
www.theyworkforyou.com
www.writetothem.com
www.guardianunlimited.co.uk
www.bbc.co.uk
www.labour.org.uk

Every major party has a web site and if you are unsure who your MP or candidate is for the next election there is usually a post code search on the site.

Derek’s web site at www.derekwyatt.co.uk has won awards. It is updated 20-30 times a week and in 2006 had average weekly hits of just on 110,000 (a high of over 125,000) and unique visitors of over 14,000 (a high of 15,600).


3. How do I contact my MP?

MPs organise themselves differently. Some just have offices in Parliament – these are free of rent and phone calls; some have offices in both parliament and their constituencies; some have offices only in their constituencies and an office just for themselves in Westminster. MPs have an allowance for their constituency offices.

  • The switchboard number for Parliament is 0207 219 3000 and then ask to be put through to your MP.
  • Derek’s numbers are 0207 219 5807 or 0207 219 0143/5238 for Anna or 0207 219 0170 for Jenny
  • Locally he can be contacted at 5 London Road, Sittingbourne or by phone on 01795 477277 ask for Kelly or Amanda
  • All his staff have email addresses which are listed elsewhere on this site.
  • Derek’s email is wyattd@parliament.uk . Not every MP has an email address.

4. How do I see my MP if I have a problem?

Most MPs undertake, what are called in the trade, Advice Surgeries. Some do two or three a week, easier if you are a London MP; some do one a week and some do one a month, a few do none at all. These are advertised in your local press or on your MP’s web site. Some MPs will also see you in Westminster.

Derek does one a week (about 40 a year) every Friday between 3pm-5pm, usually by appointment, throughout the constituency and emergencies at 5 London Road on Monday mornings 9am-11am (no appointment necessary). Ring Kelly on 477277 for an appointment. If you have an emergency outside of these times ring 0207 219 3000 and leave a message and a telephone number; messages will be emailed to Derek wherever he is.

Derek has done about 500 Advice Surgeries and helped approximately 12,500 constituents. On the Home Page under “Constituency Case Watch” is a weekly account of the type of problems constituents come to see Derek about.

A persistent MP will also take constituents to see the Minister responsible for the issue.


5. How do MPs split their time between Westminster and their Constituency?

MPs generally arrive back from their constituencies by mid-afternoon on Mondays (Question Time starts at 2.30pm) and return either late Thursday or first thing Friday morning. MPs receive an accommodation allowance (except London MPs).

Some MPs visit their constituencies once a week, some once a month. Others divide their time by living Monday (afternoon)-Thursdays in London and Thursday evenings-Monday mornings in their constituencies.

Derek usually spends Monday afternoon-Thursday late afternoon in London and late Thursdays-Monday mornings in his constituency.




6. What do MPs do in their Constituencies?

MPs do not have a contract. They do not have to spend any time at all in their constituencies or undertake Advice Surgeries. Those with large majorities may take a slightly more relaxed view on what they do or don’t do locally.

Derek understands that he will always have to work for his vote. He won in 1997 by 1929 votes when it was the 13th safest Tory seat in the country; he won again in 2001 (by 3501 votes) and 2005 (just by 79 votes) so he takes nothing for granted.

Derek usually spends every Friday visiting schools, charities, businesses, public sector organisations and sports clubs. He is always pleased to explain how he sees his role as your local MP. His Diary on this Site has his weekly meetings.


7. Why has an MP’s work load gone up so much?

Unlike county and district councillors, a good MP has a constituency office which is manned by full-time staff. Constituents often come straight to an MP for an issue like road calming or street lighting when in fact it is a matter for the county or borough councillor. Constituents will then tell you that they have tried them both but that they don’t answer letters or emails or don’t seem that interested in the first place. We have found this too often to be the case especially with Tory county councillors. We often don’t receive responses from them either…………

As a consequence, MPs are expected to do more in their patch.

After nearly ten years as the local MP, Derek is still surprised to receive invites to talk or open events in the constituency on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday when he is in Parliament. Constituents seemingly expect you to be simultaneously in the constituency and in Parliament and if there was a preference it seems to Derek that they would prefer you to be in the former rather than the latter! Given that expectation, Derek also sees constituents privately on Saturdays and Sundays.

In 1997, when first elected, Derek used to receive about 100 letters and five to ten emails a day. Today, it is the other way around; he receives about 400 emails and about ten letters a day. He says the problem with emails is that you sometimes answer them too quickly…….. In a competition on Radio5Live, when listeners were asked to email their MPs to see who received the quickest response, Derek won and was subsequently dubbed “The fastest emailer in the West!” He has experimented with a Blackberry but prefers not to be on “call” and uses a wireless system on his laptop to collect and collate his emails.


8. What makes a good MP and does it make any difference in a General Election?

Derek wished he knew but he is absolutely certain that if he hadn't worked so hard representing the Constituency in Westminster then he would have lost by over 2000 votes in 2005. Derek commented: "We had anecdotal evidence that many Tories were grateful of the work I had done and therefore voted for the person not the party. We also had hard evidence that Tory voters did not support their local candidate, Gordon Henderson because of his extreme views and style of campaigning". Derek thinks a better qualified candidate would easily have won his seat in 2005.



Derek Wyatt TV Website