Westminster Diary: Not much relaxing during the recess

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, addresses the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live TV

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, addresses the House of Commons. Picture: Parliament Live TV - Credit: Archant

Welcome to my Westminster Diary. Each week, I’ll be giving a light-hearted behind-the-scenes take on what life is really like as a new MP. From jeering and bobbing, procedures and prayers, I’ll be lifting the lid on the mother of all Parliaments. Think ‘The Thick of It’ not ‘House of Cards’!

There were quite a lot of major announcements, scandals and even resignations last week but for MPs it was 'recess.' Recess means that Parliament isn't "sitting" and so MPs aren't expected to be in Westminster but it's not necessarily the same as getting a holiday. 

One of the questions I often get asked is "do MPs get any time off?" Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes because MPs can spend recess however they like but also no, because MPs still have a duty to their constituents and people's lives don't stop just because Westminster isn't in session. 

Recess breaks generally coincide with half terms and school holidays. For MPs that have children, this alignment with school terms can make all the difference, especially for MPs that travel hundreds of miles and spend most days each week in London but have a constituency and their family in a distant part of the country. 

Some use it to have a holiday, at home or abroad - you may remember Theresa May's walking weekends in Wales perhaps? Others use it to get back to door-knocking and chatting to local residents, others for getting on top of things more generally. Some new MPs use their first recess to move house! 

I've been doing casework for constituents, trying to respond to the thousands of emails I've received so far and been trying to hire staff and get both my Parliament and local office set up. From battles with IT to holding job interviews, there is a lot of admin when you start as an MP. 

Also, as part of my first 100 days plan to meet 100 local organisations, I was especially pleased to meet Hertfordshire County Council as a large part of my current caseload relates to children and adult care services.

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On Monday, BBC Three Counties Radio contacted me and the other twenty MPs in Beds, Bucks and Herts for a comment on a breaking news story. Three replied saying they were on holiday or moving house, which might be fair enough. But the rest didn't reply at all. Personally, I was pleased to join in on local radio. When so many of MPs didn't bother to respond at all, it seems like recess might be an excuse for some.