I recently passed over 25,000 constituent cases dealt with since I was elected in December 2019 (to those who don’t like it when they don’t get a fast reply, I hope this helps you understand why!). One of the first things to strike me when I became an MP was how the correspondence you get is so different to that in almost any other job, in a good way. Many MPs are councillors before they enter parliament, but even then, my ex-councillor colleagues might have represented 10,000 people at county or equivalent level and typically had a narrow range of topics they were contacted about. MPs represent tens of thousands – Wantage and Didcot is one of the largest constituencies at near 100,000 – and are written to about every issue under the sun; during the pandemic, veteran MPs said the rate of correspondence we received was 3 times the level they’d ever seen. But the more people who contact me with problems the better, as being able to help them is the most rewarding part of the job.
Alongside individual cases I’ve been supporting 4 campaigns recently. One is continuing to help the local AEAT Pensioners obtain redress and I am pursuing something that I hope will give them an avenue for this. Another is to help Didcot resident, Sharon Gaffka, with her campaign on spiking. The Government recently moved the GHB drug – used in the majority of spiking cases – up a category so that the prison penalties for carrying it or producing it are increased. I took Sharon to meet the Safeguarding Minister so that she could explain what else she wants to see happen, including better education of young people.
I’m then supporting the Epilepsy Society’s Zach’s Law campaign to punish people who – believe it or not – send those with photosensitive epilepsy flashing images online in the hope that they will induce a seizure in the recipient. We’re hopeful the Online Harms Bill will clamp down on this. I was also pleased to join 70 colleagues in calling on companies not to digitally alter body proportions in pictures, which give people – particularly young people – an unrealistic body image to aspire to, with negative consequences for their mental health.
Visit highlights since I last wrote include Faringdon Junior School, where I took tough questions and learnt about dragons; the new Kingsgrove Cafe; the fabulous charity Mission Motorsport, which supports those affected by military operations over in East Challow; and being in Wallingford for the first day of Wallingford Radio’s FM license (tune in at 107.3FM!).