I’m a carer and an MP – the Government still wants to silence me and my constituents
Failing to grant MPs like me a proxy vote speaks volumes about this Government’s attitude towards carers across the UK.
This week I felt compelled to open up about something I have kept very private. I’ve never wanted to gain political sympathy for something I see as part and parcel of my life. But when the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, announced that the Hybrid Parliament was over… well, I was furious. I had no option but to open up.
As is well-documented now, I’ve been my wife’s carer for 21 years. During lockdown, the usual care arrangements were not really possible. But because of that same lockdown, it meant that I was at home to take over the care duties myself.
While my constituents tell me that they absolutely understand why I don’t want to risk bringing the virus north, I believe that they deserve full-blooded representation at all times. That’s why being able to participate and vote remotely was a godsend.
Tuesday ended with me having to watch drones of Conservative MPs voting to end the Virtual Parliament, despite in private many criticising Rees-Mogg’s ridiculous queue system. I was left trying to figure out how to tell my constituents that their voice was being silenced for this farce. It was not an easy thing to process.
But on Thursday I woke up to some wonderful news – or so I thought. My chief whip – Alistair Carmichael – called. “Jamie, we might have Virtual Parliament back. Look at the order paper,” he said.
I opened it up straight away and called my office. We were all so excited. But, as ever, the devil lay in the detail.
If the motions on the order paper go through, then I will be able to participate virtually. I can raise issues on behalf of my constituents who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the pandemic. The right to speak up for them is fundamental to my role as their MP – but so is the right for me to vote.
It seems to me desperately unfair that my personal circumstances should preclude me from voting.
I scrolled down to the section on proxy voting. The right to proxy vote would be granted to MPs who are shielding or caring for children. Fantastic! Except there was no mention of those who care for adults. It dawned on me: the Government had forgotten carers. They still want to silence me and my constituents.
It seems to me desperately unfair that my personal circumstances should preclude me from voting. What message does that send to the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross? What message does that send to carers of disabled adults across the country?
The Government is clearly not in touch with people on this. Denying me a vote isn't really about me, the MP, at all. It's about the rights of my constituents to have a voice in Westminster. It’s about the rights of carers to not be ignored – to not be an afterthought.
I am afraid the whole thing speaks volumes about this Government’s attitude towards carers across the UK. I must end with a plea to the Leader of the House himself: please do not silence my constituents. Let carers vote.