A couple of weekends ago, I went into the city centre to talk to residents; the skies were blue, the air was warm, and the bright sunlight had drawn out happy families. I spoke to a lot of people. I chatted with an elderly woman who was perched by a bank on Cathedral Square; she told me that the weather had encouraged her to come out, otherwise she’d have remained at home alone. I spoke to a homeless man, who was at pains to tell me, unconvincingly, that he had somewhere to go and a place to stay.
A few people congratulated me on winning the election; that night now seems a very long time ago, swept away by weeks of hard work. Since the announcement on June 9 , I have been working to put in place the offices, people and processes to serve the community. There is no set guide; each constituency is different.
Each operation has to reflect this, and when there is a change of party, as in the case of Peterborough, you begin at square one.
I will continue to do the “roaming surgery” and encourage people to share their concerns with me; I’m told this is a refreshing change. Personally, I found it invigorating to go and meet with people and discover what’s on their minds rather than wait for the office to be established.
However, since the death of Jo Cox, all MPs have a security “advisor”; they perform the essential role of trying to keep us safe. As you might imagine, the idea of wandering into crowds unescorted with only a mobile phone to call for help didn’t thrill my advisor. To preserve his anonymity, I’ll call him Jack.
Jack has advised against setting out what times I will be in Cathedral Square. He catalogued all the potential problems that could arise. Of course, it’s his role to be gloomy. I’ve thanked him for his concern, but nevertheless, I have faith all will be well, so I will continue.
Democracy doesn’t work if I’m not amongst you. We lose representative government if the representatives aren’t amidst the people as well as coming from them. As readers of last week’s newspaper may have gathered, there is a fringe which wishes me harm, but I am by no means alone. As I mentioned, every MP has a Jack advising on the risks they face. The anger of our current times is palpable; politicians are often the focus of rage because we have taken up responsibility of trying to improve matters. MPs on both sides of the House have taken a torrent of abuse, including threats of violence. It is a hazard of the profession; but life is full of calculated risks. Jack’s words will echo in my mind when I am back again in the city centre. But what we’re doing is too important to surrender to fear.