I was joined last week by a new staff member, Nick, who will be supporting my work in parliament. I say ’joined’, but we are currently working more than 200 miles apart as a result of the lockdown. I’m looking forward to meeting up in the same office when we finally make it back to Westminster. Tom, Andy and Rebecca continue to manage the constituency work, and they’re also working remotely. We do however hope to restart surgeries soon, albeit in a ‘virtual’ format, so please get in touch if you need an appointment.
I was able to ask a couple of questions in the virtual chamber this week, of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. MPs are obsessed with how often we’re called to speak, and with fewer, shorter sessions now taking place, it feels like it’s become even more of a lottery – so getting to ask questions of the two most important ministers in the government in one week felt like I’d won Euromillions. Not that I got good answers from either of them. When we sit in the chamber, we try to predict who the Speaker will call to speak – some of us got very good at that when John Bercow was Speaker, but unfortunately lockdown came along before we’d got the measure of how Lindsay Hoyle would approach things. But the upside of lockdown is that ‘call lists’ are published in advance, though we’re none the wiser about how the speakers are put in order.
Everything is virtual now, from weekly briefings for Greater Manchester MPs from Mayor Andy Burnham to the Monday evening meetings of Labour MPs ( a zoom meeting with more than 100 MPs turns out to work surprisingly well, and we don’t have the usual hazard of journalists lurking outside trying to eavesdrop. Maybe we should continue to meet virtually after the lockdown is ended). But my favourite virtual event last week was to join the Naz Legacy Foundation and Young Interfaith Virtual Iftar for #RamadanAtHome, with some very thoughtful questions and speakers. Thanks so much for inviting me!