Today I have written in the Eastern Daily Press about how I’ve made changes to explaining how I have adapted my job of representing the people of Norwich North in Parliament.
Here’s what I’ve written:
We’ve all gone through huge change in the last few months.
For lots of us, our workplaces have changed radically. Working from the kitchen with kids running around…working in some factories two metres apart…people in many critical environments wearing masks, gloves and more.
Through an amazing spirit of creativity and technological ingenuity, those who must keep working are able to do so. Thank you to everyone who’s adapted. Thank you if you’ve done something new, done your bit, done it safely, done it for your family, done it for others.
Parliament is changing too, practising what we’re preaching by enabling virtual working.
The first virtual PMQs, the first virtual select committees, the first virtual maiden speech even. Democracy is working – at a distance, from MPs’ houses.
It might not be as slick as usual – a few screens have frozen mid-question – but the sound of scrutiny, representation and challenge is unmistakable and welcome. It’s the sound of our constituents’ voices in Westminster.
Representing our constituents is at the heart of what we do. I for one am so proud to represent north Norwich, a great part of the great county that’s my home.
I’ve adapted my MP advice surgeries too, taking them online so I can keep listening and keep raising issues with ministers. Thousands of people have been in touch needing information or help recently. I’ve added a twist by supporting the www.twopointsixchallenge.co.uk, aiming to make a donation to Norfolk charities when I hold the 26th virtual surgery meeting.
And it was nice to be able to add a lighthearted moment for Norwich, in testing the new Parliamentary arrangements. Electronic voting on legislation will be coming very soon. I was asked to do a trial of the new voting system. I put forward a pretend motion for MPs to vote on: “Norwich is better than Ispwich.” As every Canaries fan knows, it is. We can rest easy as Norwich won the mock division.
Remote voting will enable important, serious legislation to happen and this vital role of Parliament in scrutinising laws must be able to continue.
It’s important to stress that these virtual measures are temporary. Democracy and the public are best served by politicians looking each other in the eye, to get to the right answers. In the meantime, technology is providing us with the next best thing.
The British constitution itself has always evolved. We are lucky to live in a historic democracy, but we have to keep it safe and keep it fit for the age. We have to make sure people’s voices are heard. No virus, no threat, will ever stop us doing that.
UK parliamentary democracy has faced other national crises. When bombs rained down on Parliament during the Second World War and the House of Commons chamber was destroyed, MPs continued to sit at Church House. We look back at that time as we celebrate VE Day this Bank Holiday, and we look forward.
We don’t yet know exactly what life and work will be like, as we still need to suppress the disease. We’ve made progress, thanks to everyone’s discipline and determination. There has been sacrifice and service, and I thank the NHS while my heart goes out to every family that has lost someone.
As we look to re-start the economy and move forward as a society, there will be things we do differently; some new things we will welcome and some old things we may miss. What will you change?