by GK Strategy 19th August, 2014

Parliamentary Recess – working hard or hardly working?

Of all the gripes that are rarely shared across both aisles of the House of Commons, there is none that irks MPs more than the popular complaint that Parliamentary Recess is a holiday. It is a regular safe haven for political journalists to find refuge in from a slow news day, particularly during the lengthy summer recess, and the actual number of recess dates certainly does little to counter this accusation. From the start of this year’s Parliamentary session (June 2014) through to the start of next year, the House of Commons will not sit for approximately 13 weeks – just under half out of a possible total of 28. When criticism is already instinctively levelled at all politicians – including recently the Prime Minister – on where and for how long they take their holidays, the absence of bums on green seats in the chamber is bound to attract similar outrage.

However, MPs will be quick to point out that this time gives them the opportunity to go back to their constituencies and directly serve the people who put them in Westminster in the first place. As all MPs’ staff will likely attest, while things appear to all be quiet on the parliamentary front, work at constituency level increases significantly. Where once political debates and voting on legislation took up an MP’s diary, in recess these are replaced by “advice surgeries”, visits to local businesses and schools as well as the customary attendance of the local fete.

This is not to say that MPs will not carry out their constituency duties during Parliamentary sitting times as well – they do; only it is often restricted to one day a week (they usually stay in Westminster from Monday to Thursday). The importance of a recess is more accentuated when you consider MPs whose constituencies are well outside the M25 and, indeed, England and therefore do not have the same face time with constituents as their London counterparts. Particularly with the General Election looming ever closer, MPs are keener than ever to be seen supporting their local communities during recess and will jump at any platform a business or charity can provide them to prove it.

In the interest of fairness, of course MPs will use some recess time to take their holidays lest they attract the anger of constituents for missing important votes, or worse still; the Whips. But you will find few MPs who will happily openly broadcast their holiday plans, especially if they involve even the faintest glimpse of overseas sunshine or a beach that does not sell 99s. As Brian of Nazareth often found, there’s no pleasing some people.

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