History-maker tells of her first weeks as MP
Dehenna Davison made history last month by becoming the first Conservative MP for the Bishop Auckland constituency. Reporter Nicky Carter caught up with her at home to chat about her plans.
AGED just 26, Dehenna Davison became one of the youngest new MPs to enter the House of Commons following December’s general election.
Less than a month after securing the seat, beating incumbent Helen Goodman by a healthy majority of nearly 8,000, she is still smiling, despite spending the Christmas break battling a cold at her High Etherley home.
The Teesdale Mercury caught up with the down-to-earth Star Wars fan, who grew up in Sheffield, and her ten-month-old rescue pup, Carter, to find out what the first few weeks as an MP has been like for Dehenna (a name she points out that rhymes with Vienna) and what is top on the agenda.
Ms Davison says: “Normally new MPs get broken in gently with smaller bills to vote on, but I wasn’t daunted by the fact my first vote was going to be one of our election pledges to get Brexit done.
“The only thing that I found daunting was the level of responsibility to constituents. You feel this amazing sense of opportunity – being there [in parliament] and knowing we can make a difference and do something.
“There were a few nerves, knowing the first vote was such a biggie, but it was a great way to say on day one that we were keeping promises.
“I joked to one of my friends to make sure that we go down the right corridor and kept watching out for the Brexit secretary just to make sure we were in the right place.”
For the uninitiated, MPs voting on bills exit the main chamber, either to the left or to the right, depending on whether they are voting, then queue to have their vote registered by clerical staff, before returning to hear the outcome.
She adds: “It took a lot longer than I thought it would to vote. It was rather like a school dinner queue with everyone shuffling forward slowly to the three desks where you register your name. Mine seemed to be the longest queue.”
While her working week will mainly be spent in London, Ms Davison says her weekends will be spent in her constituency and she is keen to keep talking with residents.
She says: “In terms of surgeries I will be continuing to do them in as many different places as possible. I have got my office on Tenters Street, in Bishop Auckland, that I was using for the campaign and for the moment I will continue with it there.”
She says her constituency office will be open during the week, adding: “I’m currently working on staffing arrangements.
“There’ll be one full time member of staff and two part time ones helping with case work.
“All staff will be local as I think it is important for the local issues.”
Pub conversations were a key component of her election campaign, something she is keen to continue now elected. She says: “I got some really good conversations going at them and I really do want to keep them going, though when I mentioned it to parliamentary security they did look a little worried.
“I want to host the surgeries in as many places as possible because the constituency is so vast. It can be difficult for some people to get a place so I have an idea to host mobile surgeries on a minibus so I can get out to places that are more isolated and rural.”
Although much of her time before the Christmas break was taken up with the Brexit bill and finding her feet, she says she has already had initial conversations with two ministers on two of her key election pledges for the region – campaigning to get a bypass for Toft Hill and fighting to get an accident and emergency department at Bishop Auckland Hospital.
Ms Davison says: “Grant Shapps [transport secretary] has already mentioned Toft Hill’s bypass to me.
“I bumped into him in a corridor at Westminster and he said he needs to talk to me about it, as it’s already on the cards.”
She adds that health minister Matt Hancock, has already intimated he wishes to speak more about her Bishop Auckland hospital campaign. She has also teamed up with North West Durham’s new MP, Richard Holden, to gain as much momentum as she can. “Richard and I are going to work closely on this, “Ms Davison adds. “And the more people that stand together the better, including the local community. It is very much in our sights.”
Creating job opportunities for youngsters in the region is also something she is passionate about and is hoping to get a youth employment champion scheme off the ground.
She adds: “I want to try to change business attitudes about youth employment – the value they can bring to a company and ensuring they don’t have to move away from the area for work. It’s about bringing good jobs to the area.”
Bubbling with enthusiasm for her new role and keen to get back to parliament to start delivering on promises, she returned to the capital before the new year began. She adds: “My first official day back is January 7, and we will back to business with the Withdrawal Bill, but I will be heading back down early to sort out a few things.
“I have managed to find a flat a short walk from parliament. Although the House of Commons’ booking office is really great and helped me find somewhere to stay initially in a hotel, I’m keen to keep expenses as low as possible.” She adds: “We just need to deliver on what we promised now.”