When I was an MP I had the good fortune to have a great team of dedicated workers behind me. From the brilliant Lynda Holton as overall Boss (now fulfilling the same role for Neale Hanvey MP) to a range of others with specialist roles. The youngest member of my team was Scott Nichol.
Given I am seeking the nomination for Kirkcaldy, I am only too aware of the need to gather an effective team that can serve every constituent. Scott thought it might be interesting to let people know what it was like working in my constituency team. (He is currently studying for a Masters degree in European Studies at the University of Gothenburg. Earlier in the year he worked as a researcher at the University’s School of Global Studies investigating The Scandinavian Rights Revolution.) So Scott, what was it actually like working for me?...........
I had the pleasure of working as part of Roger’s team during his time as a Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. I initially worked as an Intern in Roger’s constituency office and then as a Parliamentary Assistant at Westminster. This meant I was involved in all aspects of Roger’s work as an MP.
Roger knew that the towns and villages he represented were hives of community activity filled with initiative and he understood their potential and capabilities. He felt it was important to use his platform as an MP to champion the contributions and achievements of those he represented in any way he could. I often accompanied Roger when he met with community groups, organisations and businesses, and what struck me on these visits was his clear intentions for long and lasting engagement. This was evident in the ‘until next time’ manner in which these visits often concluded, with Roger always asking “what can I do to help?”
The overall culture that Roger brought to our constituency team at large was one of dedication and determination. Much of the constituency work we undertook had very human consequences and outcomes, which required a firm and determined response on behalf of the constituents we represented. An example of this was the impact of the Concentrix debacle, which saw many in the constituency wrongly stripped of their tax credits due to an error on the part of an external contractor brought in by the UK government. We felt personally responsible for righting this wrong, taking on each case as if it was our own. Our overall aim as a team was to work for the betterment of the constituency, and this was made evident by Roger’s efforts to reach cross-party, exemplified by his efforts to spark discussion and debate around town centre regeneration by hosting a forum to discuss how best to support and sustain town centres in the constituency.
Moving from my role in the constituency to Westminster meant a greater involvement in the research, co-ordination and meetings that covered some of the wider causes that Roger championed. Roger’s brief during my time in London was predominantly within finance, an area in which he was forensic in his ability to scrutinize government legislation. This was evident in the astuteness with which he raised the UK government’s inaction on Scottish Limited Partnerships and their use as vehicles for tax evasion – an issue which has only continued to grow in notoriety.
Roger was also conscious that the constituency he inherited required a strong voice in parliament. This was evident in the broad range of issues that he took with him from the constituency to the floor of the House of Commons. From voicing the concerns of constituents in light of Brexit to the inaction of the UK government in dealing with the contamination at Dalgety Bay Beach.
I came away from my time working with Roger with a renewed sense of what it meant to be a representative of the people. Having little prior knowledge of the groundwork undertaken by politicians it is fair to say that my expectations of elected representatives is now very high indeed!