Last month we were invited to spend a day in Westminster with Rushcliffe’s new Member of Parliament Ruth Edwards.
Have you ever wondered what life is like for our MPs?
Whatever your political persuasion is, they all work for us – and are elected by us, but most people have little idea of exactly what working in the political arena is like.
A draft programme for the day was sent to us in advance, but we were also told that parliamentary days could be thrown into chaos by events, and that we’d need to be very flexible with our time – ready to drop everything and run with very little notice if necessary! Which its exactly how it panned out…
Arriving at the Houses of Parliament at about 11 am, we were subject to reassuring airport-style security measures and met by our contact from Ruth Edwards’ team on the other side, so far, so good!
Before the parliamentary time began for us, we were treated to a short tour of the estate – photography isn’t allowed past the point of Westminster Hall.
The Hall is 900 years old, it was built in 1097 under William II (Rufus), the son of William the Conqueror and has a central role in Britain’s history.
The Commons Chamber
The highlight of the visit for many people who haven’t been before, is the Commons Chamber – well-known for often vigorous debate at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesdays – it also hosts many hours of other debates across all hours.
The programme for the day included Ruth’s question in the Commons Chamber, All Party Parliamentary Group on Flood Prevention, Tories for Climate Action, Parliament Internet and Communications Forum receptions and an Adjournment debate in the Commons Chamber on East Leake Health Centre.
Before the Chamber session started, we witnessed one of the traditions of the house, The Speaker’s Procession. Police lining the route call out ‘Speaker’, to signify that any people present should stand aside for the Speaker’s procession. The procession consists of a Commons’ Doorkeeper, the Serjeant at Arms with the mace, the Speaker, the Trainbearer, Chaplain and Secretary. The procession marches from Speaker’s House through the Library Corridor, the Lower Waiting Hall, Central and Members’ Lobbies to the Chamber.
During the procession, in Central Lobby, where there may be members of the public, the police inspector on duty shouts “Hats off, Strangers”.
Nowadays, few may be wearing hats but the police remove their helmets, and this aspect of the ceremony is a relic of the elaborate hat wearing and doffing etiquette of former centuries.
We then entered the Commons Chamber which was a fascinating insight into the mechanics of UK politics, it seemed smaller than the TV coverage we’re all used to.
The below video is the question from Ruth Edwards MP regarding a Rushcliffe constituent at the Justice Questions session.
Ruth said: ‘One of my constituents was victim to a convincing online scam that posed as a bank Bank As a result he lost £30,000 of his retirement savings. I took the opportunity in questions to the Ministry of Justice to ask what is being done to improve support & compensation for victims of such crimes.’
After a couple of hours watching the sessions in the chamber – we met with Ruth for a few minutes as she rushed from private meetings to other sessions, some of which of course we weren’t allowed to attend.
Back in the MP’s office, her team were on the phone busily checking availability of rooms for meetings agreed to and checking whether the day’s plans were still the same as the draft!
There was time for a very quick lunch in the Jubilee Café and more of a look around, and some time to catch up on some work in Ruth’s office.
During the afternoon Ruth attended an All Parliamentary Group for British Hindus.
Earlier in the year Ruth was invited to the Hindu Temple in Nottingham to talk about her new role as an MP and background in cyber security.
Unfortunately as we arrived for the flood meeting – it had been postponed and rearranged for another time. As had been explained this kind of thing happens when there are so many things going on.
Ruth had been called to members’ votes which of course couldn’t be attended by visitors and guests, there were on tax avoidance and social care debates.
There was also a BBC East Midlands Today request coming through for a 5 pm interview that has to be fitted in – her team were working on how to fit that around the afternoon and evening’s schedule.
The Tories for Climate Action meeting was also a casualty for Ruth but went ahead.
— Ruth Edwards MP (@RuthEdwardsMP) February 25, 2020
Lastly and at around 7 pm Ruth Edwards was able to secure an Adjournment Debate ( video below ) in the House of Commons about the future of East Leake Health Centre. She thanked Jo Churchill, Minister for Public Health, Primary Care & Prevention from the Department of Health and Social Care for listening to her case outlining the need to replace the existing East Leake health centre with a new multi-purpose facility.
The day was fascinating and an eye-opener, it was clear that whatever the political party, MPs work extremely hard for their constituents, mostly away from home and families, returning to their constituencies at weekends. In this case Ruth was then indeed out all weekend dealing with flooded residents in Tollerton and other areas of the borough.
About Ruth Edwards MP
Ruth Edwards was elected as Rushcliffe’s new MP in December 2019.
After starting her career working in the office of Crispin Blunt MP, Ruth went on to lead strategy and public policy for BT’s cyber-security business.
She has advised governments on strengthening their cyber security policies and on collaborating with stakeholders across the private sector. Ruth has worked for techUK and Deloitte, advising government departments and FTSE 100 companies.
Ruth has also undertaken various political roles, including at Policy Exchange and as an expert adviser to the Home Affairs Select Committee on cybercrime and borders and immigration. She has spoken at the UN, World Economic Forum and the OECD.
She has been recognised by industry with a Europe-wide ISG Paragon ‘Women in Technology’ award for helping more young women into technology careers.
Ruth lives near Hickling in Rushcliffe with her husband, their alpacas, chickens, bees and Geoffrey the tortoise.