Off the record: Researchers' stories
This article is from the July 2013 issue of Total Politics
A few of stories from this month’s casework tray:
- We recently received an angry letter from a constituent who was complaining the local council had refused permission for a satellite dish at the side of his house. He claimed this was an infringement of his freedom of religion under the Human Rights Act, as it meant he couldn’t watch the God Channel. The council’s reason was that the satellite dish would have been hung over a public alleyway, and had suggested a location where he’d still receive a signal, but he hadn’t wanted to ruin the look of his house. Love thy neighbour...
- A constituent came to an advice surgery recently. I recalled that last September we had successfully lobbied the council to install double-glazing in her property in time for the winter. At the time, she was delighted, but she now wanted the old windows re-fitted for the summer, as her house would get too hot. She was concerned her plants might die. We pointed out that she could, perhaps, open the windows, but no, that would be a security risk.
- A former constituent who had recently moved to Yorkshire wrote in, asking my MP to help re-house her family back in London. Her reasons: 1. It was too cold “up north”; 2. She couldn’t understand the Yorkshire accent; 3. She found the northern way of life “boring”. My MP forwarded it to some of his Yorkshire colleagues – redacting all private details, of course.
Sofa, so good
After a heavy session in the Sports and Social one Thursday, leaving in the small hours, I remembered the sofa in my office, a mere five minutes’ walk away, and headed back to Parliament. I stirred at 8am, realising the postman had quietly come and gone, went to the gym, showered, and was at my desk for 8.30am, thinking I’d got away with it. But I’d forgotten it was a sitting Friday; my MP came into the office at the same time as the second post, as the postman loudly proclaimed: “Ah, mate! You’re up! I didn’t want to wake you earlier. Was the sofa comfortable?” I gave him a ‘s**t-you’ve-busted-me’ look. I needn’t have worried – my MP said he did it all the time when he worked in the City.
Charity begins at home
My MP is a patron of a local charity. Each year, they host an annual fundraising dinner with an obligatory, crowd-pulling celebrity in attendance. My MP was keen to attend, and asked me to accept the invite. I did, and then asked how he wanted to pay for the £50 ticket. Send a cheque? Call up and give his bank details? A panicked looked spread across his face. He said, “I thought my ticket was free. In that case, call and say I now have to be in Westminster that day and send my apologies.” The irony is that, if you look on his website, there are various news stories asking residents to donate to the charity…