2010 was, to put it mildly, a life changing year for me.
The decision to stand for election for Edinburgh South as a first time parliamentary candidate was to prove a life changing experience: I had realised that the many years of hard work I had put in as a local Councillor in Edinburgh South would stand me in good stead in the mother of all Parliaments at Westminster.
I was selected very late on March 13th and that meant that I had no option but to hit the ground running, and with the General Election called but a few weeks later on April 6th campaigning went into full swing. 18 hour days were the rule in the campaign for the weeks up to polling day and I enjoyed every last second of it. Commentators kept saying the seat was unwinnable but we chose to fight a solid, traditional doorstep campaign. We spoke with over 20,000 constituents in 4 weeks and what became clear to me was the generosity of spirit in the constituency. People were really welcoming and I enjoyed the discussions, debate and, sometimes, arguments on the doorsteps. I even had the odd cup of tea and toilet stop for which I will forever be grateful to those voters involved. I had great support from my team – Paul Godzik, a fellow councillor and now candidate for Edinburgh Southern in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, acted as my election agent and Henry Phillip marshalled his crack team of envelope stuffers and leafleters who hit the streets in fine style. I was also extremely fortunate that Kezia Dugdale, now also standing for the Scottish Parliament, was regional organiser. Even so, it was a close fight, and I must confess that my victory, announced at 5am on the Friday morning after a nailbiting count, confirmed what I always thought – it is never over until the fat lady sings and the electorate choose their MP!
However it quickly dawned on me that I now had been given the greatest chance of my life – to represent the Edinburgh South in Westminster and to fight to improve the lives of those who had put their trust in me to do so. What an awesome responsibility and what an incredible privilege to embark on such a journey.
The loss of the election by Labour was a huge disappointment and the establishment of the coalition between the Tories and the Lib Dems, only further whetted my appetite for the political fight ahead. But there was also another exciting dimension to the large new intake. In Parliament, a third of the MPs are first timers, and we all feel a sense of excitement about the potential for change that this new blood brings with it. Parliament will have changed forever and I want to be part of the generation that changes it for the good.
This is when the hard work really began, and I don’t just mean taking on 600 years of some of the strangest traditions and customs imaginable! I was fortunate in that I had a readymade office set-up at 31 Minto Street, and staff in place who knew the ropes, so that from the constituents’ point of view there was continuity and thankfully, after a bit of a struggle, the Parliamentary authorities agreed that we could continue to rent the office, which is ideally placed to serve the constituency.
In London, there was a steep learning curve as I sorted out accommodation under the new rules and an office in the Norman Shaw building (with a window no doubt). My early weeks were further complicated by an obligation from my previous life as an events manager, and I had to spend 2 weeks in Bath for the fringe festival that Hannah and I had organised in the preceding months! Nicely keeping my feet on the ground by digging moats to keep our outdoor venue from flooding and unblocking toilets with rubber gloves.
However by June things were fairly stable and I was beginning to get the hang of the more arcane traditions of Westminster. I was kept busy with meetings and receptions introducing me to the life of an MP, and I was beginning to make friends and alliances amongst my colleagues. The campaign for leader of the Labour Party got going and I am happy that under Ed’s leadership Labour is able to start afresh and rebuild to meet the challenges ahead.
And what challenges they are: the battle over the VAT rise, just beginning to take effect. Spending cuts, ideologically driven and much deeper than anyone expected, are due to really start biting in the next few months. The privatisation of the Royal Mail, a policy detested by the vast majority of the people, nevertheless firmly on the statute book. The rise in tuition fees, leading to the biggest demonstrations seen in the country for a generation. Those who can least afford it being obliged to pay for the mistakes of the banks led by those most comfortably off in society. The battle lines are drawn and I am proud to take my place on the front line. Defending those most in need, fighting for those with little voice whilst always acting according to the values that make me proud to be Labour.
In addition there is the day to day work I now do in the House – in October I was invited to take on the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ivan Lewis MP the newly appointed Shadow Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, a role which allows me to combine my previous experience in events and entertainment with being a member of Parliament. I sit on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, the Environment Audit Committee and the Committee on Arms Export Controls. I have joined a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups, with interests from Cancer to the Middle East and many more in between. It is fair to say that there is never a dull, or a quiet moment!
I hold more surgeries than any other MP in the Country. Twice a week I hold my constituency advice sessions at the Minto Street office with monthly surgeries around the constituency. The office aims to deal with constituents’ issues within 2 days, a tradition carried on in which I take pride. My weekends are spent in Edinburgh getting around the constituency as much as possible, talking to people, meeting groups and organisations and catching up on constituent enquiries. And has all this kept me off the doorsteps? Absolutely not. An MP is for 5 years not just for election!!!!
There’s a lot to look forward to and a lot to fight for. With your support, I hope to be able to continue to fight for the constituency and the party for years to come.
Ian Murray MP