What do we expect from our MP?
This thought has been occupying my mind following the circulation of two pictures of the current Weston-super-Mare MP, John Penrose. You may have seen John yourself, smiling while collecting food for our local foodbank or surrounded by volunteers at the new ‘homeless shelter’.
The first thing to say loud and clear is both Weston Foodbank and the Night Assessment Centre are important charities that are absolutely needed to help people who are struggling. They are run by committed, passionate staff and volunteers and we are lucky as a town that these organisations exist.
But they shouldn’t need to exist.
What’s the problem?
We are the 5th wealthiest country in the world, yet we have people living without the bare necessities. How can it be that in such a rich country people are living on the streets and families are unable to afford food?
The answer is government policy.
Our government make decisions that affect our lives. Our MP, who claims to represent each of us living in Weston-super-Mare, takes part in that by voting in Parliament. He is part of the decision making process which results in people having a home and being able to afford to feed their family, or not.
There is enough to go around
Let’s imagine all the money collected and shared by the government as a big juicy pie (a simplification of how the economy works, but that’s a discussion for another time!).
You could give a fair slice to the poorest people in our society by voting for things like ensuring welfare benefits rise at least in line with prices, or that local councils are given adequate funding to provide services.
You could give a bigger wedge to the richest by voting against things like raising the amount of tax people earning over £150,000 pay or against banker’s bonus tax.
How does John Penrose slice the pie?
I started this post by asking what we expect of our MP, so let me quickly answer that question.
I expect our MP to represent the interests of his constituents.
Considering we have areas in Weston-super-Mare that are in the 1% most deprived in the country, that means I expect him to especially concentrate on those people with the very least. I expect him to use his power to improve the lives of my neighbours who have so little.
Let’s have a look at the voting record of our MP, to see if there any clues about whose interests he has in mind when he votes in parliament.
Votes for his mates
Let’s first have a look at some of the votes that I would put under the category ‘giving more to those who already have the most’:
Votes against the rest
And now let’s have a quick look at some of the votes I would file under ‘taking away from from those who have the least’:
Make the link
I’ve saved a couple of examples to really try to make this as clear as possible. Our MP makes decisions, through his votes in parliament, that cause people to end up homeless and unable to feed their family.
Our MP has voted against people having access to a secure, affordable home.
Our MP has voted against everyone having at least enough money in their pocket to be able to feed their family.
Why is he voting like this? And why is anyone voting him into power to allow him to do so?!
It is difficult to be anything but outraged by the hypocrisy of our Tory MP posing at charities that exist because of the failure of the Conservative government’s policies.
Should our MP settle for being pleased that these organisations are trying to deal with the symptoms of the bad decisions of his party, or should he actively be using his position in parliament to make sure there is no need for such help?
Is this good enough?
I expect more from our MP.
I expect our MP to be ameliorating inequality and injustice, not causing it.
I expect our MP to be working tirelessly to make sure everyone has a home, not having the audacity to pose at the opening of a shelter that’s required due to the massive rise in homelessness under their government.
I expect our MP to be voting to make sure every person in Weston-super-Mare has enough money to put food on the table, not collecting food because their decisions mean too many do not.
I expect our MP to be using their power in parliament to vote in the interests of the many, not the few.
What do you expect?