May 2019 reflects 4 years since I was first elected as MP, creating some nostalgia. The 2015 election was momentous in Scottish politics, with the election of 56 SNP MPs and the ending of “safe seats” in Scotland. I was fortunate to be the first Scottish MP elected, securing the then largest ever general election swing. That didn’t last long as other colleagues got swings bigger than could be shown on the “swingometer” they use on the TV!
Being naturally cautious, I hadn’t looked beyond the finishing line of the election, and suddenly arrangements were being made to travel to Westminster on the Monday and I had to get my head round my new role, including formally resigning my employment as a civil engineer. As I turned up nervously at Westminster I managed to make a news clip as it took several attempts for a revolving door to open as I pushed in vain against it.
I slowly felt my way into matters such as talking in the chamber, bobbing to ask questions, making speeches etc. This was in stark contrast to many other new MPs, particularly Tories who carry the air and confidence of belonging there. Through time you find out that the arrogance of many is not matched by talent. Equally some of the best speeches/orations I have witnessed have come from politicians where I disagreed with the points they were making. Hilary Benn’s speech about Libyan air strikes was one, and Michael Gove has delivered a couple of barnstormers. Yet both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both really poor at delivering speeches and also really poor at thinking on their feet.
Another big ticket item for a new MP is your maiden speech with the pressure to talk up your entire constituency, not missing any areas out. It is amazing how many members of the public complemented me on it. I was also struck by the general goodwill of constituents when I was elected, many glad to see someone local being elected. [Although of course my predecessor Cathy Jamieson was local too]
Other personal positives for myself has been the requirement to learn more of wider world issues, and having to push myself out my comfort zone on talking on some of these matters. Trips to Qatar and Palestine trips are key examples of this and the Palestine trip in particular has given me an insight I would never have had otherwise. Clichéd but true is the fact the best aspect of being an MP is helping people and meeting some fantastic community groups, organisations and volunteers.
On the other side, the shock of 2017 snap election showed how vulnerable you and your staff really are, as I saw good colleagues lose their seats. That said, if the worst were to happen, I will always be lucky enough to say I won two general elections to represent the constituency I grew up in. I obviously harbour dreams of Scottish Independence, but while elected, I will do my best to work for all my constituents. This I think is illustrated by House of Commons statistics that put myself top of the league for Scottish MPs in terms of speaking contributions in this parliament.
These views were first expressed in the Kilmarnock Standard.