Dear Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.
As one of your constituents I offer warm congratulations on your election as the Member of Parliament for Berwick last Thursday. Irrespective of how any of us voted on May 7 you have a duty to represent all of us to the best of your ability. I genuinely wish you well.
You have taken on important responsibility for some 75,000 people, some too young to have votes, and while there are those who will denigrate every MP there are many thousands in every constituency who appreciate the work you do.
Obviously you are a Conservative MP elected on the basis of the Conservative Party manifesto and part of a Conservative Parliamentary Party which has a majority in Parliament for the first time in 18 years. You are plainly entitled to support your policies in the House of Commons and be there to vote them through.
On the other hand there are 40,000 people in Berwick constituency, who, when given every chance, did not vote for you and they also require you to represent them well. Five years seems a long time but it can pass very quickly, especially when the opposition starts to re-build and electoral accountability draws more near.
Unaccountable as I am, privileged to be able to say this through a newspaper column, I’d urge you to consider how party politics can be an impediment to being a good MP.
As we know, many people are turned off by the ‘yah- boo’ nature of some ‘debate’ and by propaganda. Berwick, and everywhere else, would benefit from realism and a less partisan approach. There are people on very low wages, who are ill, disabled, old who fear the impact that any government can have; there are children whose voices are never heard. It would do you great credit to hold regular surgeries in Lynemouth, in Hadston, in Amble, to recognise the reality of some people’s lives in Alnwick, Berwick and in many pockets of rural deprivation.
Please resist the glib snobbery of people who would draw a line between those of us in ‘rural’ Northumberland and our fellow Northumbrians in the south east. Please try to work as well with Ian Lavery and Ronnie Campbell as you will with Guy Opperman and constructively with a Northumberland County Council of whatever political hue.
Of course you must challenge. Yes, we need at least a decent dual carriageway the full length of the A1 to Scotland but you must insist to George Osborne that a ‘northern powerhouse’ offers opportunities and a place for Amble, Alnwick, Berwick and the East Coast Main Line.
In an inter-connected world there should be no reason why enterprise and innovation can’t be conducted from a farm house or a hamlet, or a cottage by the sea.
When I was in Parliament I remember telling Alan Beith that he had the ‘second finest constituency in the land’. Thereafter my move to Warkworth rather demonstrates that he won that argument. However there can be no place for second best in Northumberland. Where’s our university? World class in education, integrated health and social care; only the very best will do.
To the north in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk you now have a Parliamentary neighbour in the SNP. Don’t be afraid of the Scottish National Party; in their determination to do well for their people, in the large turnouts and enthusiasm they engender they are to be emulated.
It is a constitutional outrage that your constituents living within a few yards of Scotland within the same United Kingdom suffer so much less investment, so little control over the big issues of their lives. Neither the Tory nonsense of ‘English Votes for English Laws’ or the Labour rubbish of ‘Non elected’ combined authorities will do.
As part of the North East region Berwick and Northumberland require nothing less, but nothing more, than the same levels of taxation, investment and devolution as other parts of the same country.
If you really want to challenge austerity and raise money to support the services your constituents need you might look close to home. Next year in Parliament you’ll be marking the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion of 1066.
Almost a millenium ago the North was harried into submission with vast tracts of our country handed over to their barons. How about a 2016 private members bill to institute a new Domesday Book to catalogue the ownership of every piece of land? Then we could institute a modest, but reasonable land tax on the Duke of Northumberland and colleagues thus raising billions to support enterprise and opportunity in an egalitarian society fit for the next 1,000 years.
What a coup that would be for a Tory MP!
Please support international development and the UK’s principled and active involvement in global issues. Please join with those who are likely to be campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum on the EU.
Amongst everything, do enjoy yourself; some days being a Member of Parliament can feel like the best job in the world.