A day in the life of Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps
FRIDAYS in Parliament are traditionally set aside for MPs to spend time in their constituencies. Here reporter Chris Richards spends a day with Welwyn Hatfield's self-proclaimed energetic Member of Parliament to see what he
FRIDAYS in Parliament are traditionally set aside for MPs to spend time in their constituencies. Here reporter Chris Richards spends a day with Welwyn Hatfield's self-proclaimed 'energetic' Member of Parliament to see what he gets up to on a typical Friday.....
I met Grant at the Coronation Fountain at 9.45am for his first engagement of the day, the official launch of Isabel Hospice's Bring �1 to Work Week.
"We'll have you tired out by the end of the day," he smiled.
"We'll see," I thought to myself.
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Grant posed for photographs and chatted briefly with fundraisers, before moving on to Woodhall Community Centre, in Mill Green Road, for his fortnightly MP's surgery.
He had three appointments, a caseload he described as "light".
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"In a heavy surgery you can have 12 cases."
Sitting in, I quickly realise that surgery can be incredibly varied.
It can also be intense.
"It isn't unusual to have somebody break down in tears," Grant told me.
Friday's first case saw members of Hatfield's Tamil community lobby him over the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.
Next up, were two residents from Ludwick Way, WGC, who were concerned about vandalism and anti-social behaviour in their street.
Then, in the final appointment, Grant was lobbied over possible changes to UK employment law.
I asked how important surgeries were to him.
"To be an MP you have to like people.
"It is a people person's kind of job and I am often amazed by the number of MPs who don't seem to like people very much.
"They are absolutely in the wrong job."
With surgery over, we travelled to Monk's Walk School, in Knightsfield, for a debate with the school's youth parliament.
I smiled as the motion for this particular debate - 'This house has no appetite for a Conservative government' - was announced.
Unperturbed, Grant speaks passionately about his party's plans for the future, before fielding questions on a range of subjects including the Autism Bill, tuition fees and the Iraq War.
The crucial vote then took place and the motion was convincingly defeated - is this, I wonder, a portent of things to come at the next General Election?
The school then presented a cheque to Epilepsy Action, before we headed to Beehive Lane, to meet a resident who was concerned about parking around the QE2 Hospital.
The briefest of lunches followed before we ploughed headlong into the afternoon schedule.
First up, we made for Hatfield police station, to discuss policing in Welwyn Hatfield with chief inspector Dave Newsome.
Then it was off to Grant's office in Hatfield to meet Jean King, the founder of a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity called Resolve.
Finally, we went to Great North Road in WGC, where Grant gave advice on planning issues to campaigners opposed to the construction of a worm farm nearby.
The day ended at 5pm and, true to prediction, I was tired.
Reflecting on my day, I would have to say the tagline of energetic is appropriate for our MP and, regardless of your political allegiance, his commitment to his constituents cannot be faulted.