Well, I’m back from going to the surgery of my newly elected (with an increased majority of 2,000) Conservative MP. Thank you to any of you who prayed for me or sent me positive thoughts. I think it really helped.
I was really nervous. I was shown into a waiting room by a very polite man and had to fill out my name and address and why I was coming. My reason was impact of cuts on vulnerable, particularly carers, young carers and disabled.
Then my MP asked me to come into another room to talk to him.
I told my MP about how I was a carer for 5 years until last May and how hard it was, and how because my parents didn’t see me as a carer but just as a dutiful daughter, and because I had no idea my caring duties would last that long, that for 3 years I didn’t even get carers’ allowance and my husband and I, with four children to support, used up most of our savings making up the shortfall in our finances . I told him about how a charity funded by the Govt (I think) identified me as a carer and helped me fill in the form to apply for carer’s allowance, which I got for 2 years before my Mum died, and a month or so after. I told him that even though I was educated the form was v hard emotionally for a carer to fill in and I could not have done it without the support of that service and he made a note. I told him how that same service was undercut by another provider who had obviously claimed they could support carers cheaper, and I had not seen them at all. He made lots of notes and I really felt that he was listening. I told him how hard emotionally it was to be a carer.
He really, genuinely listened.
Then I told him about young carers. I told him there were young carers registered as young as 5. That in The Children’s Society photographic exhibition there was a picture of a girl who learnt to give insulin injections at the age of 3. I told him we don’t send children down mines or into mills or up chimneys any more and we shouldn’t have them doing this terribly hard job and that the nation certainly didn’t have the right to get children to help save money on social care.
I know we don’t agree about some things and we interpret things in a different way. I told him one of the reasons I couldn’t vote for him on May 7th was because of the cuts in the welfare budget and the way the Govt would not say where they were coming from, which was cruel. He said he is concerned about the debt he feels was inherited from the previous Labour Govt and the cost of public spending, for example. I said I’d prefer to spend more taxes. He feels Ian Duncan Smith has been v unfairly vilified and is a v responsible man who wants to empower people. He considers that it is the poor who have been most adversely affected by immigration and the undercutting of wages etc, and he does have a point, although we didn’t have time to discuss the role of the free market and employers in this. I think it is good for me to hear different points of view. And it is notable that he told me the first person who came to his surgery to ask for help which he is going to try to give, was from Eastern Europe. I am sure he is going to help him or her. The elderly lady before me, who I overheard was having a hard time being hassled by some neighbours, seemed very relieved after seeing him.
But what I really appreciated was that he made notes about the registered 5 year old and he is going to a) Contact Jeremy Hunt to ask about what the Government is doing to support young carers and b) find out how young carers in our constituency are being supported and try to help them more himself. I said I felt that they shouldn’t be doing the job at all, and I also asked him to look up what The Children’s Society have found out about young carers. I do believe he genuinely is going to try to get involved.
I gave him ‘Dog Ears’ and pointed out the links to The Children’s Society at the back, and ‘Girl with a White Dog’ in reference to the language used by the press. He insisted on buying ‘Girl with a White Dog’ and ‘Dog Ears’ from me, and when I tried to argue his son,who was sitting in on the surgery, said actually, legally, he had to as otherwise he would be accepting gifts.
So I sold two books – an unexpected bonus!
I gave the £15.00 to my daughter and it has paid for her piano lesson this week.
Which reminds me, I must ask him about free Music lessons in schools and tell him it is unfair that those from poorer homes are effectively excluded from learning an instrument…
I hope that this post does not seem too sickly sweet or complacent. I do know I am very relieved at the courtesy and politeness shown me and also that I didn’t say anything I regret, but I hope it doesn’t seem that I think someone buying my books and being nice and listening to me is enough to make me change my political views. I know that political change doesn’t come about being ‘nice’. I know that cosy chats are not the same as hard disciplined campaigning. I still am a Christian on the Left and I think things need to change in this country.
But if being nice is too anodyne, what good does all the not being nice do? What good has it done? All the F**** and cynicism and hating and sneering online? All the RT and offensive ‘satirical’ cartoons and denunciations in the twitter and Facebook bubbles – all the refusal to talk to anyone who voted for or who believes something different from us? What did that result in? Did that actually help anyone? It certainly didn’t seem to get through to the electorate and now we have the prospect of more cuts and the repeal of the Human Rights Act and other things we don’t like, and young carers and others still need help. in ‘Girl with a White Dog’ I talk about colluding with people in power doing evil things, but I also talk about demonising people. That also applies to demonising people in parties we disagree with.
I know I am lucky in that although I do not belong to the same political party as my MP, I go to the same church and he recognised my face and that made the meeting a little easier. I know how hard working he is and how respected he is. I know he is a very good constituency MP. Maybe some people reading this have horrible MPs and can’t go to talk to them.
But please, if you think your MP may be at all decent can you give them the benefit of the doubt? For the first time since this election I feel a bit more hopeful. I know it is only a small thing, but I feel that democracy still works. That there are good people in every party, that there are good MPs and it is possible to make some small change for the good, and that mutual respect and politeness can help make a difference. At least, it’s better than despair.