General election: Don’t overlook MPs’ work for constituents – Bill Jamieson

We should all remember the good work done by MPs in dealing with their constituents’ problems – as many of us would probably not want to get involved, writes Bill Jamieson.

Former MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford hits the road in Banff and Buchan in a mobile office
Former MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford hits the road in Banff and Buchan in a mobile office

Seldom has there been a period when MPs have been less trusted and more scorned. From Nick Robinson’s excoriating interviews on BBC Radio 4 to TV pundits flaying some dissembling party spokesperson, contempt and ridicule are rife. Skewer them alive. Flay them till they scream, the horrible, ghastly, lying people.

But there are some 650 parliamentary seats. Most of us can barely recall more than 20 names of the more prominent MPs. The greater truth here is that there are many hundreds of constituency MPs, their quiet work drowned out in the cacophony of tribal politics.

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The typical workload can range across an array of problems from which most of us would recoil: constituents with housing problems, boundary disputes with neighbours, anti-social behaviour issues, NHS waiting-time hassles, planning problems, benefits issues, battles with unhelpful utilities, tax disputes and families trapped in debt.

Rare is an MP’s surgery without a deeply burdened voter hauling in carrier bag full of dog-eared correspondence and papers stretching back years.

Underneath the scornful media coverage, we expect our MPs to be multiple problem-solvers, dispute settlers, behavioural psychologists, pathfinders to solutions and superbly connected through the labyrinths of local government bureaucracy.

That’s the reality for most – work many of us would not want to touch with a barge-pole. And while they may not solve all these problems, they can usually offer some help.

So here, a plea to bear in mind the constituency work that quiet MPs do and assess the quality of the individual candidates when we come to vote – rather than simply voting negatively or tribally for those with the loudest mouth.

Over the years, I have voted for individual candidates irrespective of party label because of the reputation and quality of their constituency work.

We need representatives who can help guide us round a problem – not always a constitutional lawyer or a brilliant ideologue on the finer points of neo-Marxist recalibration and the works of Antonio Gramsci. Let’s have more recognition and respect for the work the quieter ones do.