Tag: Member of Parliament

Does your MP represent your views?

Pointing finger - does your MP work for you?

Politics. You can’t escape it right now. Whichever side of the Brexit fence you sit, I think it’s fair to say we’re in a hell of a mess which shows no signs of abating. Boris appears to be going bonkers and heading towards dictator/despot status, Rees-Mogg can’t even sit upright, and the government has no majority.

Wowsers!

Like (I think) many people, my interest in politics has developed in the lead up to the Brexit referendum and in the time that has passed since. Prior to that I felt (rightly or wrongly) largely unaffected by the political landscape. I held loose views on the political parties but didn’t feel that what was going on in Westminster really made a difference to my life.

So what changed?

As well as the vote on whether to leave or stay in the EU, which began to shape my views and pique my interest, I have become a more avid and staunch supporter of Dignity in Dying and the rights they campaign for. Following an inoperable prostate cancer diagnosis, my Dad started looking into assisted dying as an insurance policy to avoid what he feared may be a horrible death. Due to the UK law this would have meant travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland, where assisted dying is legal. Dad wasn’t able to progress with his plan due to his doctor denying him access to the necessary medical records, but his wife has since shared their experience with Dignity in Dying, and I was invited to Parliament to a debate in January 2018.

The last assisted dying bill was voted on in 2015, and MPs voted 330 to 118 against a change in the law to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives with medical help. I started to wonder how my own MP, Labour’s Roger Godsiff, had voted.

That’s when I found website They Work For You. Here you can find a history of how your MP has voted on matters that are important you.

I was delighted to find that Mr Godsiff had voted in favour of a change to the law, allowing assisted dying, in both the 2015, and the preceding 1997 vote.

More recently…

You may have seen news coverage earlier this year about protests outside primary schools regarding LGBT teachings. Despite the messages being around acceptance of differences than hardcore gay sex (as you might imagine from the uproar), parents and none parents alike were causing disturbances outside the school in the Birmingham suburbs and withdrawing their children from lessons. While at first covered only locally, in time this reached the national news.

Roger Godsiff was, at first, conspicuous in his silence. Then, even worse, he publicly declared that the protestors were correct to be against the teachings and that they had just cause to be unhappy (despite, it later emerged, having not even read the books that were at the centre of the controversy). Once again I turned to They Work For You, to find out how our Roger had voted on LGBT issues.

Turns out that, up until July this year, Rog couldn’t be bothered to turn up to 4 votes regarding allowing same sex marriage, and voted once against it, in 2013. Funnily enough, in July this year, he voted in favour of allowing same sex marriage in Northern Ireland (where it’s currently still illegal). Now, either he’s had a dramatic change of heart (doubtful) or, as the cynic in me believes, is trying to get back in the good books after his misplaced and archaic comments around LGBT teaching in school (for which he was publicly denounced by fellow Labour members, and reported to the Chief Whip).

Back to Brexit

To give Godsiff his due, he has voted against leaving the EU with no deal. But he did vote in favour of a referendum around EU membership in both 2011 and 2013 – which is what caused this mess in the first place!

Just down the road…

In a neighbouring constituency, Labour MP Jess Phillips is a breath of fresh air. She represents Yardley constituency – with a mix of ethnicity, wealth and education. As recently as yesterday she made headlines in her out and out vocal disdain and distrust of Boris Johnson as the current Prime Minister. She’s straight talking, passionate, and in politics for the people rather than the status. She spoke out against the LGBT protests even though they weren’t happening in her jurisdiction. She has been an active part of protests around cutting funding for schools, so that some can only afford to open 4 or 4.5 days per week (her son is one of thousands of pupils affected).

British politics need more people like Jess Phillips. In touch with the people, wanting the best for the country (rather than self promotion and vanity titles), dare I say young? Not that all older politicians are out of touch, but many of them are.

Find out more about your MP

If you get 5 minutes, have a look at the They Work For You website and get an overview of your local MP. Of course you won’t agree with them on everything. But it’s an interesting read nonetheless. It could well be helpful to you if a General Election happens sooner rather than later!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

0

How speaking to your local MP can make a difference

When I went to a Dignity in Dying meeting in Parliament back in January, it was quite clear from the MPs who attended that there’s still a hell of a lot of misconception about what the charity and it’s supporters (myself included) are fighting for. On that basis it’s clear that, when there is another vote on the issue in Parliament (as there was in 2015), those MPs won’t understand what they’re voting for, which will obviously affect the outcome.

To be clear, Dignity in Dying are fighting for a change in the law that allows mentally competent, terminally ill people with less than 6 months to live, the legal right to end their life in the UK with medical assistance. Mental competence would be assessed by an independent psychiatric professional. This would end the need for people to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland or other countries and organisations where assisted dying is currently legal. It would mean that people could die at home, in comfort, surrounded by family. It would mean they didn’t have to skulk away like criminals and worry that anyone who had helped them to make the journey overseas may face prosecution.

My Dad’s wife’s MP is Tom Watson, Member for West Bromwich East and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He didn’t vote in favour of changing the assisted dying law in the last vote three years ago. As a constituent, she and another local resident Jim, who took his partner to Dignitas because the UK law didn’t allow her to end her life in her home country, requested a meeting with him to discuss the issue. They both shared their stories and experiences with him, and presented him with the latest research from Dignity in Dying.

Mr Watson was very moved by both of their stories, and surprised at the difference in treatment at the hands of their doctors (Dad’s doctor refused to give hi the paperwork he needed to be accepted by Dignitas on legal grounds, whereas Jim’s partner’s doctor helped them to collate everything they needed. Ironically they were both under the same GP surgery). He was visibly emotional and his opinion of assisted dying changed during that meeting. He pledged to publicly declare his support.

True to his word, Mr Watson was interviewed by the Daily Mirror newspaper, and an article was published this weekend. He acknowledges that meeting with my Dad’s wife and Jim changed his opinion, and has gone on record as saying the law needs to change

You can also read the full article detailing the difference in experience of Jim and my Dad’s wife here.

I’m sharing this message to prove that you, me, all of us, can make a difference. Not just specifically to Dignity in Dying, but with anything you feel passionately about. Maybe your MP is like Tom Watson – doesn’t understand your issue or has never really given it any thought. Maybe the thing that you want changing has never been on their agenda. Maybe you’re the person to make them understand and make them think about it.

Be the change.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

0