Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: A typical week in the life of an MP
People often ask me exactly what the job of being a Member of Parliament involves so I thought it might, with the indulgence of the Burnley Express be useful for me to describe a typical week.
It’s Monday morning and I’m up bright and early preparing myself for the week ahead. I packed my case last night and I’ve got all my essentials; phone, iPad, Parliamentary pass and train tickets; now I just need to gather my thoughts for the business ahead.
It’s time to set off to the station. I spend a full day a week travelling so I almost always catch the train rather than drive so that I can get some work done on the journey.
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It is only 10am and so far, I’ve had over a hundred emails and more are coming in thick and fast, in fact faster than I can open them.
The emails are a mixture of invitations to meetings and events (some in Burnley and some in Westminster), individuals needing help with specific problems, professional bodies and lobby groups asking for my support, people asking me to vote this way and the other way and detailed questions about policy.
I should say at this point that emails are a feature of every day and even with staff help, answering them all takes up a considerable amount of time.
First today, I must write my weekly column for the Burnley Express. I get all my gear out and settle down on the train to write the column. I’ve hardly begun when I notice that a message has come through from my Parliamentary office, apparently the Speaker has granted an urgent question and as it’s about a health issue in my brief, its my job to respond for the Opposition, so this means that I must put the column on one side and prepare a speech to deal with this.
Meanwhile I’ve got a voicemail from my constituency office: 2BR want me to record a piece about the latest Brexit developments. Another email tells me that the question that I submitted to the Minister for Education has been drawn – so I need to marshal all my thoughts on that issue.
It's about cuts to school funding and this is important for Burnley and Padiham and its essential that I have all the correct details at my fingertips. By now the train is pulling into Euston and I have to dash to my office; a quick coffee and a catch up with my researcher, record my piece for 2BR and then it’s into the chamber for Education questions.
Then it’s my urgent question and back to the office – just enough time to finish the column before the Shadow Health team meeting.
The Ten Year Plan for the NHS has just been published and this has to be analysed line by line. We are in the middle of the team meeting and the division bell rings. This means that we have just 8 minutes to rush across the parliamentary estate and into the voting lobbies.
On this occasion there are three votes one after another and each one takes about 15 minutes so approximately an hour passes before anything else can be done.
A typical Monday evening is spent in debates, voting and catching up on the day’s work and research ahead of Tuesday’s business. The House usually adjourns on Monday around 10-30pm.
Tuesday begins with a breakfast meeting with representatives from the aerospace sector. Aircelle and BAE Systems are there so it is important for Burnley, that I am there.
Today is World Cancer Day and I’m asked to pop in to meet with Cancer UK to get the figures for Burnley. In the main chamber there is a debate on tackling child poverty and I am keen to participate.
I’ve applied to the Speaker for permission to speak in the debate; the debate though will last three hours and I have no idea what time I will be called to speak.
This is a problem because I’ve also been asked by a number of constituents to attend a debate in Westminster Hall on the subject of the fur trade and it's an issue I feel really strongly about but I clearly can’t be in two places at once.
At the end of the debate voting takes another half an hour and I have a meeting scheduled with the CEO of the Royal College of GPs and I’m also hoping to spend a few minutes listening to what the Health Select Committee has to say about the detention of people with learning difficulties.
The day seems to have flown by and this evening I’ve accepted an invitation to meet with principals from Lancashire colleges and I’m keen to be there because the principal of Burnley College is attending.
The Government Minister also turns up so I get the chance to question him about funding cuts to the college. It is useful to be able to challenge him face to face on this important issue even if the discussions do get interrupted by three votes.
Today the House adjourns at 9-30pm it is usually 7-30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but it is always subject to change with no warning, so it is impossible to make any plans.
On Wednesday of course, it is Prime Minister’s Question time and those of you who have time to tune in at midday will usually see me sitting right behind Jeremy Corbyn.
This hour-long exchange is what most people think of when they think about Parliament, but I can assure you that it is a tiny part of the what goes on down here and is by no mean typical.
Today before I get to PMQs, I’m scheduled to speak in a debate in Westminster Hall relating to support for hospices. All end of life care provision comes within my ministerial brief and I will be responding for the Opposition.
In the middle of the debate I notice a message from my office: Granada have been in touch and would like me to nip across to their studio for a quick interview and the Health Team staff have also emailed informing me that the Government is bringing some legislation regarding reciprocal health arrangements ready for our exit from the EU and I have to take this in Committee.
This will take three full days starting next week and all the preparatory work will take the equivalent of another day. This will mean even greater time pressures next week.
I should say that receiving emails, texts and Whatsapps on the go, is an essential part of an MPs day so you should not be surprised when you see me or any other MP apparently ‘messing’ with their phone or tablet in the midst of a debate.
We are constantly receiving and sending messages relating to the immediate and subsequent business.
After PMQs I’m meeting up with some constituents who are visiting Parliament. I managed to get them tickets for the public gallery and they are keen to discuss what they’ve seen.
I spend a pleasant half hour with them and then I’m off to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Carers. There are literally hundreds of APPGs on any issue you can think of and as the name suggests they are made up of MPs and Lords from all political parties.
They often produce reports that influence Government policy. I am very selective about the ones that I attend. Currently I am a member of the group for Carers, Hospices, Kashmir, Aerospace, the Prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Domestic Violence Issues, Universal Credit and The Prevention of Sight Loss.
This afternoon I am speaking in the debate on police budgets and then I’m off to participate in a round table event relating to the development of a national strategy for eyesight.
This meeting finishes just in time for me to attend an early evening briefing on the Northern Powerhouse and what it will mean for Burnley.
This finishes at 8pm and I retire to read up on the Bill ahead of next week’s Committee sessions.
Most weeks I travel back to Burnley on Thursday a) because I like to spend as much time in Burnley as possible and b) because there is always so much work to catch up on at the constituency office.
This Thursday, however I’ve been asked to cover a debate on Mental Health First Aid in the work place.
First though I drop in for Business questions which gives me the opportunity to raise some specific constituency matters and today I’m fortunate because I have managed to secure a one to one meeting with the Government health minister.
On from the Department of Health and Social Care it is time to make my way to the station and begin the journey home.
On Friday morning I have a meeting with the CEO of Burnley Council for an update on new developments in town and then it’s back to my office for a meeting, with my office staff for a catch up on the week’s events.
I would like to say at this point that I could not do the job that I do without the incredible support of my dedicated staff.
Anyone who calls in my constituency office is assured of a warm welcome and efficient service from Trish, Joanne and Grace and I am supported in London by my hardworking researcher, Dami.
After our meeting I am visiting Burnley General to inspect the new facilities that are being built and then I’m off for a meeting with the British Dental Association.
Finally, there is time to catch up with my family.
It's now Saturday morning and I’m holding an advice surgery in Tesco.
Burnley are playing at home and I’ll be on the Turf cheering them on. When they are playing away I usually spend the afternoon clearing any outstanding mail and reading briefings for the week ahead.
On Sundays I regularly get invited to constituency events and around them I catch up with emails, laundry etc.
As a member of the Health team I am required to attend events in other constituencies. Recently I’ve been in Bradford and Burton on Trent speaking on various issues relating to health policy.
This morning though the health staff are calling me because there is a story breaking in the Sunday papers and the media want a comment.
I deal with that then it is time to get ready to go the Holocaust Memorial Service. Back home and almost time to pack the case in readiness for another busy week.
The only certainty for the forthcoming week is that every day will be different.
In conclusion I must say that as your MP I am always busy, totally dedicated and always honoured to represent you in Parliament.
If you need my assistance with any matter please email [email protected] or call the constituency office on 01282 425744.
To speak to me in person, come along to my next MP’s surgery on March 2nd in my office on 8 Keirby Walk from 10am - noon.
My constituency office at 8 Keirby Walk, Burnley is open to the public next week from 10am - 4pm on Monday - Friday except Tuesday, when we will close at 12-30pm.
My staff will do their very best to help you and pass on to me the issues which you raise.