This morning I was invited to be a guest of the Church at their morning communion service. In place of a sermon I was interviewed about my work as local MP. I am grateful to the Church for their hospitality and interesting conversation.
I was asked about various issues. Do I represent the people in my constituency who do not vote for me or agree with me about various important matters? I explained that the job of an MP is to represent all his or her constituents, whatever their views. Where people’s views differ, the MP wishes to see that all sensible viewpoints are properly considered by those making decisions. An MP also wishes to understand the range of opinions and views before making up his or her mind about how to vote and what to say about an issue. Much of the time I am dealing with constituents who do not agree with my view, or with each other, which is why they have written to me to lobby in the first place. By definition the majority who agree with you or are not bothered by the issue tend not to write in.
Do I mainly deal with local or with national matters? I explained that we elect 54 Borough Councillors in Wokingham, and the West Berkshire part of my constituency helps elect the West Berkshire Council. These Councillors make decisions on our behalf and control substantial local budgets for social care, local transport, schools and planning. Councillors do not want MPs to second guess their decisions, so I usually refer local matters to those who make the decisions about them. I work with the Council on national financing of local government, on the framework of law and regulation under which our Councils operate, and national guidance. Most of my work is about national policy matters, from tax and benefits through law and order to economic policy, defence and foreign affairs.
I was asked what do I do if my own view is in disagreement with the majority view of the constituency? I explained that I try not to let that happen, and find I share the majority view on a number of crucial issues. In each case I have to weigh the evidence, the professional advice and the views of the constituency when deciding what to say and how to vote. In some areas I feel I have sufficient expertise and understanding to lead the debate. In other cases I am more reliant on party or government views, or on the majority view of my electors. In each case a judgement has to be made. The aim is to carry as many people with me as possible when coming to a decision and helping Parliament to a national conclusion on an issue. An MP tries to bring his or her local community together in support of an approach where possible.