Sir Ben Bradshaw: Being an MP has been the best job in the world

SIR BEN BRADSHAW IS THE OUTGOING LABOUR MP FOR EXETER


I was wrong. Having confidently predicted in at least one recent Echo column that Rishi Sunak would stagger on till November, he’s done the nation one last favour by calling an early election.

The element of surprise was almost the only thing he had left. But judging by the expletives pouring from the mouths of Conservative MPs and the dreadful start to their campaign, the Prime Minister seems to have surprised his own MPs and party the most.

As my 27 years as MP for Exeter ends with the dissolution of Parliament this week, let me offer one or two reflections. Politicians get a lot of criticism and social media has made this worse.

But this is still the best job in the world. What can be more of a privilege in a democracy than your fellow citizens electing you to represent them in their national Parliament? Every day you can make a difference, even if it’s a small one, to the lives of your constituents. You meet incredible people in every walk of life.

No two days are the same. With a handful of exceptions, your constituents, including those who don’t vote for you, are generous and polite. If you find your party in Government you can achieve even more for your constituency. If the Prime Minister makes you a Minister, you have the privilege of delivering for the whole country.

When talking to school groups in Exeter I’m usually asked what the best and worst bits about being an MP are and I always find it hard to think of the worst bits. There’s the public scrutiny, but that goes with the territory for anyone in a high profile position. It’s hard on partners and spouses, some of whom, like mine, didn’t anticipate their partner going into politics.

There was the “offal bomb” thrown by a huntsman and fake blood thrown by an anti Iraq war protestor. But these are pin pricks compared with the daily abuse faced by shop-workers on the minimum wage. It has been painful for me personally watching the negative impact of this Government’s policies on many of my constituents.

The disaster that is Brexit sits like a dull rage in the pit of my stomach. But, in spite of all of this, I cannot think of a single day when I’ve regretted putting my hat in the ring to be MP for Exeter 28 years ago. I feel I’m the luckiest person alive.

Thank you, Echo readers, for giving me the opportunity to serve, thanks to all my staff and local Labour Party volunteers - the ones who actually do the work and make everything possible - and thanks to my family and friends who have tolerated my absence on too many occasions with great grace.

Finally, best of luck to my successor. You are about to be given the best job there is. Never take it, or your constituents, for granted.