Friday, 13 March 2009

Anne Begg's Week

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Week beginning 9th March – Engaging Women and Young People.

As I had spent a large part of the weekend in Dundee at the Scottish Labour Party Conference, I hadn't managed to write my article for the House magazine nor had I held my usual Friday surgery. Therefore, I was up at 6.30am on Monday morning to write my article and was in the Aberdeen office that morning for surgeries. I, therefore, didn't fly down to London until 3pm. The journey usually takes around 5 hours door to door, sometimes 4 and a half if everything goes smoothly. On Monday it took only 4 hours! Wish it was always so quick.

I arrived in the House in good time to attend a reception in the Speaker's house in memory of Lord Norman Hogg who died at the end of last year. This was followed by a dinner attended by his friends and colleagues from both the Commons and the Lords. Although Norman had been the MP for Cumbernauld, it was to his roots in Aberdeen he returned to when he entered the Lords. There was lots of laughter as everyone told their favourite story about him. I think he would have enjoyed it.

Tuesday was dominated by the Speaker's Conference. We took evidence in the morning from young people and those who aim to educate them about the workings of Parliament. The message came across that we needed to 'get out there' and engage with young people who are interested in issues, if not the formal aspects of political life. We did just that in the afternoon when we met up with some of the participants of a young leadership scheme in Bethnal Green called Uprising. It was great fun and really interesting from our point of view. There were more young women than men and almost all of them were from an ethnic minority. All were interested and engaged. Just the group of people we need to persuade that politics matters.

I was also on a charm offensive on Wednesday to persuade a group of women that they, too, should consider politics at an event in the House of Lords to mark International Women's Day. My speech seemed to go down well. Either that or they were just being nice.

Prime Minister's Questions was very subdued this week, partly because it was the first time David Cameron had been in the Chamber since the death of his son, but mostly due to the murders of 2 soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland over the weekend. PMQs is usually a bear pit, but the Chamber also seems to instinctively know when this would be inappropriate.

As a result it was agreement all round when the only Scottish Tory MP, David Mundell, and I appeared on the Holyrood Live programme on BBC2 that afternoon. It is quite hard doing a down the line interview from College Green across the road from Parliament with all the traffic rumbling past.

I had a meeting with a DWP Minister on Thursday about an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill for grandparents when it returns to the Commons next week and Friday is shaping up to be a particularly busy day for constituent surgeries.

It was also great to have some constituents visiting me in Parliament this week. Not that I ever forget the great privilege it is to work in such a magnificent building. However, it is wonderful to experience it afresh through new eyes again every once in a while.

From Monday's entry it seems that it's not just students that have to get up early sometimes to catch up on late work.:P

Another good week when it comes to equal opportunities, encoraging women to stand for election is one very useful way to iron out the gender gap (more like chasm) in British politics. (A gap, I would add, that is not so evident at Co-op party meetings.)

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