Stepping into the shoes of an MP: a student's take on local politics

By Samantha Smith, Former Youth MP Telford & Wrekin
Having shadowed Telford MP Lucy Allan, last week, I share an insight into the vital role played by our local MP in all areas of our community and the range of involvement with the constituency she represents.

Politics is somewhat of an enigma for young people today and, for many young people the prospect of throwing oneself into the proverbial ‘deep end’ is rather daunting. But I have learned that politicians are not the ‘champagne socialists’ or ‘snowflake-bashers’ we might imagine: in fact, in my experience politicians in Telford strive to be the exact opposite.

To improve our democracy, those in power must first understand the demographics of their local area. It is clear that Telford and its people are at the heart of what drives Lucy Allan. The average day for a Member of Parliament is equal parts demanding and rewarding, with a constant and diverse range of activities and events – certainly not your average 9-to-5 office job. 

We visited constituents from all walks of life in our community: speaking with local students at National Citizens Service about social action and politics, learning about the British Pregnancy Advice Services in Telford, discussing housing policy issues with a visit to the Wrekin Housing Trust, addressing public concerns with a visit to TELDOC to discuss access to GPs appointments, and a visit to the local police for an update on a range of issues, it was a wonder that we managed to find space to draw breath never mind grab lunch. 

The act of going out into the community is instrumental in building an understanding of the issues facing society – something Lucy Allan describes as “just as, if not more important than being in Parliament”.

Another way in which the MP and her office liaise with Telford constituents is through case work and surgeries which cover a vast array of issues. This is something that I hadn’t known about before stepping into my MP’s office in Central Park, and yet it is such a fantastic way by which concerns can be directly addressed. I would regard this work as something of an ‘unsung hero’ as it is conducted on a confidential basis and resolved without publicity. Local people can contact the MP’s office directly whether it is to share concerns about local green spaces or seek advice regarding cancelled hospital appointments, the role of case work and surgeries provide a direct means of assistance for residents who do not know where else to go for support. There is a dedicated team of staff that assist the MP in this work and, where issues may require a face-to-face meeting, Lucy Allan is able to accommodate for these in regular surgery meetings.

Examples include when local residents expressed concerns about a local road and a new development causing disruption in their neighbourhood – this was escalated by Ms Allan to those responsible, a site visit took place on the same evening and further meetings were arranged with the authorities. In addition, the MP played a vital mediating role in the recent Morrisons’ car parking dispute in Lawley. We met with parish councillor, Lee Vidor, which was important in understanding the work of the parish council and local residents in lobbying for change. This work helped secure a positive outcome for the Lawley community. 

From this, experience, I have learned of the power of our representatives to achieve positive change for our community. Telford MP Lucy Allan is the first female MP to represent any Shropshire constituency in 90 years, and she serves as an inspiration to politically-minded young people such as myself who wish to be the impactors and change makers of the future.

If I had been told at the time of the 2015 election, at the age of 13, that in a few short years I would be inspired to run for office myself in the future, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet it is the integrity and proactivity politicians such as Lucy Allan that are inspiring the next generation, and I can say with absolute certainty that I have been inspired by my experience shadowing my MP.

Lucy Allan said: "Sam was an absolute pleasure to host for work shadowing. She was really interested in every aspect of the an MP's constituency work and showed a real enthusiasm for helping local people and for improving our area. She has a very bright future ahead."

Picture from left to right: Cllr Lee Vidor, Sam Smith MYP, and Lucy Allan MP