In between some lovely Christmas church services, brisk winter walks, lots of cooking (and more eating than I should), Christmas has been a good time to reflect on a very hectic first six months as an MP.
Since I was honoured to be elected in June, the role has seemed like two almost full-time jobs – one in Westminster and the other all across High Peak.
In Parliament, with the Conservatives’ majority so small, votes have been close, and there have been a great many of them – with all MPs required to be in London on Monday to Thursday most weeks.
That leaves fewer days than I would like in High Peak, but I have tried to make the most of my time. I hold surgeries most weeks, covering each area of the constituency, and with the support of my staff, have responded to over 4,000 cases since June.
With so many difficulties facing local services, I have to prioritise meetings with health and transport chiefs, council officers and decision makers – especially about the proposals for The Cavendish and Shire Hill Hospitals. Rural areas are usually the first affected by cuts, so a big part of the role is to fight the corner for High Peak residents.
I also visit as many businesses, local charities, schools and groups, as I can, as well as holding coffee mornings on Saturdays and knocking on doors on Sundays to try and speak to as many people as possible about what you want from me as your Member of Parliament.
Back in Westminster, I take up as many of those issues that people raise with me locally as I can – from disability benefits to leasehold house sales, from broadband speeds to school and nursery funding.
I’m pleased that the Government responded positively to some of these campaigns in the days before Christmas recess – extending Broadband vouchers for a year, banning the sale of leasehold houses, and ending the 80% target for refusals to reconsider a refusal of disability benefits.
These changes are welcome, but they all need much more work to make sure that the warm words become real action that will assist people across High Peak.
However the fact that we as individual MPs can help to achieve change, shows that it is worth taking up issues – and there is always so much more to fight for.
I will certainly be busy in 2018, both in Westminster and in High Peak, but in the meantime I wish all readers a very Happy New Year.