How accessible are our MPs?

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps - Credit: Office of Mr Dowden/ Office of M

This week we witnessed the reshuffle of Boris Johnson’s cabinet and saw how our local MPs fared.

The Welwyn Hatfield MP and Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, weathered the reshuffle and held on to his position. Shapps is also a member of the cabinet responsible for implementing the levelling up agenda.

He has made pledges and taken action to improve transport connections by better linking up transport and improving infrastructure. This is vital work but I wonder if an MP for Hertfordshire, who was raised in the local area, is the best positioned person to understand the needs of northern communities.

The MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden was moved from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, a position he had held since February 2020. Dowden, whose constituents include Potters Bar residents, was elected in 2015 after previously working as David Cameron’s Deputy Chief of Staff. He has now been appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party.

Moving Dowden to this position could be seen as a move by the Prime Minister to ready his party for the next general election. In his previous roles he has demonstrated a talent for political communication, crisis management and organisation.

It is great that the local area is so well represented in government. Our MPs elevate the status of their constituencies and make them really relevance because they have the power to affect the wider country. However, it must take the time and energy away from MPs for constituency work and, their increased responsibilities must make representing the interests of the area more challenging.

The accessibility of local MPs interests me. In April 2020 I contacted Oliver Dowden, who was at the time my local MP, about a problem I had accessing furlough and sadly did not receive a reply. In July this year I was a little indignant about changes in holiday quarantine rules for the fully vaccinated, as I had not yet had to the chance to get my second jab.

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar

Abygail Tustin from Potters Bar has spoken to the WHT about her experiences of being furloughed during lockdown. - Credit: Supplied

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Having moved from one side of Potters Bar to the other, changing constituency in the process, I contacted my new MP Grant Shapps who was well placed to respond to a transport issue. I received a lengthy, thought-out reply from one of Shapps staff just over three weeks later.

With this limited study, I have had a 50% success rate. This is not too bad I think, but there is always room for improvement.