Rather cross with my failure to blog over past week, since the election was called. Hope to make up for it over the next few weeks. I finished up in Westminster on Thursday (by 'finished up' I mean gathering all the outstanding correspondence up and shovelling it into my suitcase, and forgetting to return my library books). As of 5pm on Monday, when Parliament was dissolved, we are no longer MPs and are not allowed into our Westminster offices, or allowed access to our parliamentary email. I've got it on auto-forward, to firstname.lastname@example.org - people from Bristol East are welcome to contact me on that; people not from Bristol East, to be frank, I'd rather you didn't!
It was quite a weird feeling actually - I got off a train at Temple Meads at exactly 5pm, and suddenly thought: I'm not an MP anymore. I might never be an MP again. And then I walked home past Transport House, the TGWU headquarters, and saw loads of Vote Paul Smith posters in the windows where five years ago there were posters for me. (Boundary changes, it's in Bristol West now). So I've been feeling quite nostalgic, thinking back on the past five years. More of that later, perhaps.
Although I'm not an MP anymore, my office is still allowed to deal with outstanding casework, but I can't do surgeries, can't call the MPs' hotlines for immigration or DWP cases, can't use my MP letterhead... There's the added complication of the boundary changes. Much of my staff's time at the moment is spent writing to people in Lawrence Hill and Easton wards, saying I'm sorry but I can't represent them anymore because even if I am re-elected, they will be in Bristol West constituency, and do they want me to pass their files to the new MP after May 6th? (Incidentally, when the Tory, Jonathan Saeed, was beaten narrowly by Labour's Jean Corston in Bristol East in 1992 - not just one but two boundary changes ago - he simply binned all his casework files. That's Tories for you.)
Since getting back to Bristol on Friday - and what a relief it is to be in one place for a whole month! - I have of course been busy campaigning. I also spent Saturday afternoon debating Sikh issues with candidates from the Lib Dems and Greens, someone from Plaid Cymru and a rather rude and objectionable UKIP MEP (is there any other sort?) who I have since learned is Barbara Cartland's grandson. I'd have thought she'd have insisted on better manners from him. He tried at one point to suggest I'd said that people guilty of crimes against humanity should be allowed into the UK, but people who said things I disagreed with shouldn't. Needless to say, I said nothing of the sort.
Monday was the manifesto launch in Birmingham, and back in time for canvassing, and Tuesday started with Harriet Harman's visit to a family project in south Bristol. Lots more to blog about there, but enough for tonight.... busy day campaigning ahead of me tomorrow!