What to do if ... you become an MP

Sunday 03 January 2010 01:00

Chloe Smith became the country's youngest MP, aged 27, last year. The Conservative member for Norwich North, she was elected to the seat when the local MP Ian Gibson (Labour) stood down during the expenses furore

"My advice to anyone who wants to be a new MP in 2010? First of all, be sure, if you stand as a candidate, that you want to win and are ready to fight in case the contest should happen to come earlier than expected!

"The community, of course, wants to select the best candidate to be their local MP. Meanwhile, the cameras roll up and the newspapers take an interest. So, be sure you know why you are the best person for the job – and that you can explain that, time and again, to the local and national media. Be sure, most of all, that you can say it with passion and pride to everyone who you seek the honour of representing.

"Try to get a few outfits together and comfortable shoes that will withstand a month of campaigning. One thing I did when I became an MP was get together with some other female MPs in purchasing some bright-coloured things to wear at Prime Minister's Questions.

"I remember I made sure that I came to London the night before my first day in Parliament. The last thing I wanted was a late train from Norwich making me late. If you were to be successful and be given that responsibility of becoming an MP, don't even think about asking for a map of Parliament on your first day. It's practically an official secret. Do, instead, ask the policemen you see – they enjoy welcoming new MPs.

"Don't rush into the Commons and open your mouth. It's a heady experience to take your seat, but it's worth learning from your new colleagues about the traditions, the horrors and the pleasures of speaking in the chamber before letting rip. Do, however, enjoy writing and delivering your maiden speech. People sometimes think that the Chamber can seem very empty when they see it on TV. But one of the first things I realised very quickly was the range of work that you must do as an MP, from a whole variety of meetings in my constituency, to a further variety of meetings in Westminster and hours and hours of preparation for those dates.

"As anyone who has entered a new job – let alone one in the public eye with public responsibility – knows, the phone won't stop ringing and the emails will pour in. So don't try to do everything in your first month. It's not possible. Do, instead, try to pace yourself and deliver the important things first.

"Overall, you have to enjoy yourself – especially now. The General Election will be on us soon, so make the most of the brief rest before it. Get out with family and friends and do normal, enjoyable things. Get to the supermarket and lay in all the vital supplies before your face becomes instantly recognisable from posters bearing your photo and your slogan. Get things done before you have to do them forwards, backwards and in high heels."

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