What does an MP do in his first couple of months in office? Peter Gibson explains

TODAY it is 80 days since the election – since I was elected as the MP for Darlington and since the Government was elected with a clear mandate. The people of Darlington, and indeed the neighbouring constituents of my colleagues in adjacent seats which have new blue MPs, can rightly ask what have you been doing?

The simple answer to the question is quite a lot. This is not just a new job, this is a new way of life for me, with Darlington, and its people, at the centre of it.

In any year buying a new house and getting a new job would be pretty big milestones for anyone, but for me the past 80 days has also included hiring staff, finding a flat in London, living out of a suitcase, sorting out an office in town, finding my way around the labyrinth that is Westminster, learning the ropes of our Parliament, travelling north and south every week, standing for election to a select committee, making my maiden speech, and getting to grips with the day to day role of the constituency work that every MP has.

We have also managed to squeeze Christmas, New Year, and getting Brexit done into those 80 days, too. Phew!

From the practical side, I've handed my company car, computer and phone back. We’ve bought a new home in Darlington, and have started to put down roots that will form the foundation for my life ahead. I’ve recruited the team (although one vacancy in Darlington still exists), we’ve moved into the office and life is starting to fall into a pattern. I don’t mind telling you it has been a whirlwind.

An MP’s role splits into a number of parts, constituency case worker, policy lobbying point, community champion, legislator, government champion and challenger, and in the age of social media, political tamagotchi. Everyone wants a bit of you.

Juggling those things, all of which have a level of importance, is a daily battle. What I hadn’t appreciated was the pushmepullyou anguish that every MP faces, particularly those whose constituencies are than a few miles from Westminster. Monday morning is the setting off to London, anticipating the week ahead, and as soon as I arrive I find out what I am required to stay down for. Am I required to vote? Can the whips let me have a slip to get back to deal with the things in Darlington?

With the majority the Government has, I have been quite lucky and have been able to make it back more often and more frequently that would have been the case for governments in the past with smaller majorities, and that means I can spend more time in Darlington.

For me, the constituent casework is the most rewarding aspect of the role. To a large extent, it is similar to that of a lawyer or a social worker, helping to solve problems when people have tried every other door.

We have had some really great results, but I have faced enormous challenges for people in the most challenged of circumstances.

The privilege that this position gives is that it enables doors to open and answers to be given. The answers are not always what you want but when you can ensure that the bereaved lady can stay in her home for longer, or an unforthcoming visa for a man to visit his dying mother is hastened, you do gain some satisfaction.