WITH the antics of my erstwhile colleague Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, in mind, I have been reviewing my own approach to keeping in touch with my constituency.
Nadine's conduct in appearing on ITV's I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here has been criticised on two levels – her failure to inform either her constituency or Parliamentary colleagues is one and the other is the nature of the programme itself she joined.
I have no plans to do anything similar but I do deploy a variety of measures to ensure I am accessible to residents and aware of issues across a diverse constituency.
Formal methods include holding weekly surgeries and sometimes in different parts of the constituency.
The range of people and problems or campaigns covered in these sessions gives me plenty of food for thought.
Another formal approach is attending meetings and events.
With so many community activities, support structures, businesses wanting to engage and public service locations – eg, fire stations, hospitals and schools – my diary easily fills up with interesting places to visit.
Meetings with councillors from the three levels of councils – parish, district and county – we have in the Valleys and Vale also help to add colour to my understanding of local government.
My website is another effective tool. It contains information about my activities in Parliament in addition to contact details, constituency activities and background information.
Many of my surgery appointments are generated through the website.
Today, the Member's postbag is supplemented by emails and even social media.
Many handwritten letters are the most moving and expressive but emails now form the largest proportion of contact by individuals.
Email campaigns are popular and these are a useful measurement of the strength of feeling on a range of subjects.
Informal contacts – visits to local pubs, fetes, markets, sports events, churches and exhibitions – are highly enjoyable and valuable in finding out what people really think. To my mind, there is no substitute for being around and about.
If you are interested in the issues raised above, contact me on 01453 751 572 or visit my website www.neilcarmichael.co. uk. Now, you can also follow me on twitter @neil_mp.