Dehenna's Diary: Six weeks off? I've been busier than ever in recess
WITH the flourish of a pen as I signed the last letter in my in-tray, my first term as your MP ended.
It has been a bumpier road than any of we new MPs could have imagined, and we are all hoping that when we return to Parliament this week, the upcoming term will prove to be more stable, and outside the unprecedented and (CRAZY) realms of a global pandemic,
Contrary to populist opinion, the summer recess is not a six-week holiday.
In fact, throughout August, my diary has been busier than ever. I have long believed that MPs should be well plugged into the community, as the more we know about what is going on locally, the better we are able to represent our community in Parliament. As such, I was very keen to grasp the opportunity of an uninterrupted period back home in the constituency to get out and spend time with as many local people as possible. Just before the Covid crisis, I had launched a new scheme called “Dehenna at work”. Inspired by my dad (who was a proper hands on grafter) the idea was for me to work a shift at local businesses in order to get to know the work they do, the challenges they face and to chat about how I can support them in Parliament.
In my first session, I spent a great day at Morton Tinmouth West Farm, learning all about free range egg production.
Unfortunately, the lockdown began soon after so the campaign was put on hold, but I was very excited to get started again in August.
I joined Phil at Breaking Bread, in Bishop, for a shift in their bakery. As well as learning about bread production and getting the chance to make some teacakes, I also spent a lot of time chatting to Phil about how the business works, how they have coped during lockdown, and their exciting future plans.
Somewhat living out a childhood dream of being a police officer, I also spent a day with Durham Police.
Joining them bright and early at 7am for the morning briefing, I went out on patrol, including visiting a property where a large quantity of cannabis plants had been found, and learned about how the police are tackling organised crime in the county. It was an incredibly insightful day which has helped broaden my understanding of our excellent local police force’s work, and I look forward to spending more time with Durham Police in the months and years to come.
Alongside pulling shifts, August was a month of business, business, business.
I started the month opening two fantastic new ventures, West Auckland Amateur Boxing Club, and the incredibly stylish ML Hair Studio, in Bishop Auckland.
As a great believer in entrepreneurship, I am always full of admiration for people who make the decision to start their own business, and sincerely wish them well for their first months of operation, and beyond.
I had told my team to pack my diary with engagements and they certainly delivered. I met a number of farmers to discuss challenges with Covid and seasonal labour, with many businesses along Newgate Street to discuss bringing life back to the high street, and with Dan and Jane from Adoro Caffe who have some brilliant plans for local, sustainable coffee roasting. I visited Café Cheesedale, Teesdale Alpacas, The Bowes Museum, Wetheriggs Animal Rescue, Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club, Locomotion in Shildon, YMCA Teesdale, Teesdale Gun Club, and local sports clubs like Shildon FC and the Durham Spartans, and more.
Word limits mean I can’t name everyone, but I am hugely grateful to everyone who took the time to engage with me and share their insights.
In among the packed diary, I have also spent a lot of time in the office catching up on letters and emails, helped by my incredible team, and setting out plans for the next few months ahead
I will be focussing on the local priorities I was elected on, like improving rural broadband, getting the Toft Hill Bypass built, boosting local healthcare provision, and rejuvenating our high streets. Since the election, residents have also shared concerns about other things, such as restoring historic bridges like in Whorlton and exploring the Barney bypass, so I will also be getting to work on these.
This year has thrown many challenges at us all, and I’m sure I say this too often, but I am really proud of how our community has reacted.
We’ve come together in the toughest of times and it is so inspiring to see.
I am very grateful to everyone who agreed to take time out of their busy schedules to see me and show me around their business or talk me through their work.
As ever, I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to serve our community, and will be back in Parliament on Tuesday, firing on all cylinders, and determined to be the best local representative I can be.