Political Promise

Do we expect too much from our MPs?

In David Brownsey-Joyce on January 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm

When David Miliband announced that he was looking to spend time volunteering and possibly a non-executive role at Sunderland FC, it got David Brownsey-Joyce thinking about whether we expect our politicians to be slaving away for us night and day.

When David Miliband announced that he was looking to spend time volunteering and possibly a non-executive role at Sunderland FC, it got David Brownsey-Joyce thinking about whether we expect our politicians to be slaving away for us night and day.

It amazed me this week to hear David Miliband, MP for South Shields, talking about volunteering at a school in Chalk Farm for a few hours a week, taking on a non-executive role at a Premier League football team, and even pitching ideas to the BBC for future programs. This to me sounds like an awful lot of time out of someone’s diary for projects which are not relevant to serving his constituents.

Whilst volunteering is an excellent trait, I’m not sure I would be happy to see my MP volunteering a few hours a week outside of my constituency – better those in my constituency, helping those he is supposed to represent. At the same time, volunteering at a school means that it will be during primary office hours. What happens if there is a vote in the house? Is David going to miss it or is he going to let down those he proposes to help?

This then got me thinking about my own constituency and the MP that serves it, Frank Dobson (Labour). I have never met Frank and I’m sure he’s a likable character but I just never see him in the constituency, I presume that he spends all of his time working for his constituents in Westminster.

The problem is that I never hear about this. I tried to access Frank’s personal website to learn a little bit about him and what he’s been getting up to but instead I was welcomed by a message saying:

“Your website has been suspended!”

It seems that the hosting site for it had expired so Frank is relying on the Labour Party website and others such as ‘epolitix’ and ‘theyworkforyou’.

I visited the Labour Party website a number of times last week for work. I am responsible for arranging accommodation for reporters at the magazines I work for who attend the party conferences, and as anyone who attends will know, accommodation is always the first thing to go. Whilst there looking for confirmation that the conference was going to take part between the 25th and 29th September in Liverpool I came across the same notice.

‘Further details will be available on the 4th January.’ The last time I checked this was on the 15th January, a little tardy then. So I spent 30 minutes on hold waiting to get put through to someone at the Labour Party to confirm the dates and city, yet they could not confirm the venue. Must still be in negotiations I guess.

Back to Frank. Well I first checked Frank’s page under ‘D’ for Dobson on the 12th January, woops nothing; instead it sent me back to the homepage. I checked all MPs with a surname starting with ‘D’ and they all had the same problem. Sent an email to the Labour Party and they ‘fixed’ it on Friday 15th January. When I say they fixed it, there was a picture of Frank and his name, next to his constituency; must be a work in progress.

The only biographies I could find on Frank were on wikipedia, epolitix, theyworkforyou, and the Sunday Telegraph; the Guardian ran a list of his expenses.

So good to know that his communication budget was being put to such good use. I did find his last available report to constituents, it was from Spring 2005, and so my next step was to see his registered interests.

According to the December 2010 register, Frank was flown to Canada in October, where he spoke at Union conventions in Vancouver arranged and paid for by the ‘Canadian Union of Public Employees’ and the ‘British Columbia Hospital Employees Union’.

Nice if you can get it. I have to fly out to Canada in May for my brother’s wedding. I’m spending a large chunk of the savings I raised last year on it, so it’s nice that they spent £3,227 on your flights and accommodation along with £1,114 on your other expenses on the trip.

All I can say is that I trust you got a good education in how to handle unions because if you did I’m sure that the time you spent there and money would have been worth it. As long as you can help the Mayor of London and Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, sort out the underground staff holding us to ransom it’s worth it.

He also received fees of up to £5,000 each from GMTV (relaunched as Daybreak), the Guardian, the Independent, and the associated newspapers for the Mail on Sunday.

I trust he spends his downtime writing, as I do, as opposed to his day job.

And this brings us to the main point, the majority of politicians view their roles as a career, as a job, it’s no longer a calling. The thing you do when you see things are wrong and you decide to stand up against them. As such how can we expect them to do anything other than spread their wings and diversify their individual interests, to give only as much as required to get the job done, rather than everything that they are. Their very heart and soul for the people that they represent, when we get people like this back in politics I will rejoice but I can’t see it happening anymore.

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