Hayes in the House by MP John Hayes
Countless local people have told me that the Prime Minister’s recent speech, reminding us that his experience with his late son Ivan informed and cemented his commitment to the NHS, struck a deep chord.
Deeper certainly than the faddish habit of denigrating institutions that bind us together. The monarchy, the church, the armed forces and Parliament are all victims of this corrosive cynical habit.
Fringe politicians constantly tell us that Parliament is ‘out of touch’ and has lost respect because it is in their interests to do so.
Yet not only are democratically elected politicians – local and national and of all parties – obliged to reapply for their jobs every five years, but in taking up thousands of individual cases on every subject from housing to health, pensions to planning, benefits to business rates they are in touch with every kind of citizen in every kind of circumstances.
For me, using with my family the same schools, doctors, shops and roads as the people I represent means knowing about their quality and caring about their condition.
Living at the heart of my constituency in Moulton seeds my pride and purpose in serving constituents here and in Westminster.
Our democracy is in much ruder health than some would have us believe as the remarkable 85 per cent turnout in the recent referendum in Scotland confirms.
And in my experience MPs from all the major parties do more now in their constituencies as the volume of casework they handle has grown year on year (I get more than 500 letters and emails each week!) and they are expected to master more complex national briefs as the legislative programme is immeasurably more demanding than in former times.
It is easy to take all this for granted. Yet, in Hong Kong thousands of people are putting themselves at personal risk by protesting in favour of the type of representative institutions we enjoy.Our parliamentary system is admired the world over and has been copied by many because it is adaptable whilst honouring the timeless values which have made it great. I think the reason the Prime Minister’s brave willingness to draw on the challenging, and in the end tragic, experience of his son’s loss was so meaningful is explained by the connection that it reminded us always exists between those who lead and those that follow their lives.
This connection is about shared feelings but it can be about shared opportunities too; it is perfectly possible for someone to travel from the humblest of beginnings to the height of power – I know because I did.