Surgery all morning, adding in an extra Saturday session because of the high demand.
I think it is so high for a combination of factors. Firstly – there is about a five week hiatus where the sitting MP during an election is no longer officially the MP and therefore cannot hold surgeries – so there is a basic gap in service provision.
There are a group of people who were seeing the previous MP and their problems had been unresolved – and would be irresolvable quite frankly by any MP – who think they will have another go.
There is another group who were seeing the previous MP and who were now anxious about what will happen given the MP has changed – and often want to see someone in person to assure themselves that their case will be worked on.
And then there are those who want to give the new MP a try out plus – of course – the regular diet of normal issues which arise. And there are some who just, quite sweetly, come to say hello.
So – since starting – I have been doing anything between 7 and 10 hours surgeries a week. We’ll see how the demand goes, especially now that I have my casework staff in place and so more people can be dealt with more quickly by phone and other means.
Anyway – I had received reams and reams of stuff from a guy who was very angry about a matter. Many agencies had obviously found him very difficult to deal with – and in the correspondence that I had received in advance it was obvious to me that there might be some difficulty.
He didn’t turn up for his appointment at 9am. However, he did turn up about an hour later. I explained that his appointment had been at 9am but said I would try and fit him in – though with everyone else arriving on time it might take a while.
Anyway – at about 11.30 I asked him to come in as the gentleman who had arrived for an appointment at that time had arrived but was clearly unable to talk he was so out of breath – so I asked if he minded waiting for a few minutes.
So – it began badly. Mr X heard nothing I said. Jumped down my throat. Started shouting at me. Called me a liar. Was extremely aggressive. Said that I was basically as bad as everyone else who was against him and so on. I tried to help by explaining that some of the difficulties he was encountering with all the agencies involved in this case might be because of his aggressive approach – and that he might be making it difficult for people to work with him even if they supported him. This did not help. And he stood up shouting and saying he was going to leave. So I opened the door for him. There is nothing you can do in such situations – other than hope it doesn’t escalate into physical violence.
There is a panic button under one of the desks in the room where I do my surgeries – but I don’t know what happens if you press it. I will find out! I haven’t felt until now very threatened – but I know Barbara Roche (my predecessor) had to wrestle someone to stop them setting fire to themselves and a Lib Dem MP was attacked and badly hurt and his assistant killed at a surgery. So these things are no joke and it is why I don’t do surgery alone.
Also today my latest newspaper column comes out – on ID cards. Tragically the issues about terrorism are now very topical, though I had written it a week before. Manage to update the internet version though.