THE BLOG

David Cameron - I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

13/11/2015 17:12 GMT | Updated 13/11/2016 10:12 GMT

This week Parliament broke up early. MPs got to go back to their constituencies on Tuesday night. I was delighted. I like Westminster, it makes me feel fancy and important - dare I say powerful, without seeming like a swivel-eyed megalomaniac. That said, on almost any day I would rather be in my constituency and sleeping in my own bed.

I want to do a surgery swap with David Cameron. This week good old DC showed the world just how little he knows about how his government is affecting his own area in Oxfordshire. If he had had the day I have had, he might rewrite the foolishly blinkered letter to his council leader.

My office is an open office. Anyone in my constituency can pop in for help at any time in the working week. This week, thanks to the recess, I got to be there to help in person. No matter what I write here I will never convey the atmosphere and hustle and bustle but I will give it a whirl.

We started the day just two of us. The other staff were out on site visits and at community meetings. I was with Amrita, my amazing and tenacious caseworker who is currently fretting about how cold her head will be next week after she shaves it for charity. Amrita spent forty-five minutes on the phone talking to a woman racked with depression, whose son is struggling at school. We discuss a way forward after the call ends. We agree we need to get her son some counselling support, he has grown up with real trauma. We both know he won't meet thresholds for children's mental health support and will be on a waiting list for... well, forever.

Next in through the door is a family support worker from local Barnardo's children's centre. We still have this service for now, we wonder what the spending review will bring. She is working with a woman who is at breaking point. She has been through unimaginable abuse and violence. She and her four children have been on the waiting list for a home since 2011. Yes, registered homeless for four years. I get on the phone to her for half an hour. I do my best chivvying, I tell her she is a great mom, a strong woman, an inspiration to me. I ask her for some documents to help her case. She can't come to me as she has to get her kids from school and can't afford the bus fare. So another member of my team jumps in the car to go to her. It's important. I arrange to see her on Monday, I am worried for her.

At lunchtime, through the door comes the neatest, most well turned-out older woman I've ever seen. She is sixty-nine and is the sort of spick and span my nan tried and failed to impress on me. Dressed neatly in patriotic red, white and blue, still emblazoned with her poppy. She tells me she wears it all year round. She talks of being a patriot. The energy bills she clutches in her hands are akin to the enigma code. Myself and Juliet, my amazing volunteer, who helpfully used to work at British Gas, try to get to the bottom of it. Her bill is increasing from £18 per week to £31 per week. She is near tears. Twenty minutes on the phone and we manage to wangle it down to £26 per week but still she leaves telling me she can't afford it and will not use her storage heaters anymore. I cuddle her, like I do with most people who come through my doors. She says she will return the next day to get her Diwali samosa, which Amrita has promised us all.

Throughout the day five of us sit on the phones and use our consultation room to deal with a very mentally unwell man in desperate need of housing support. A man waiting for his front door to be fixed after a year since a break in. A mom whose two severely autistic children have had their respite hours cut in half. We have already helped to get a specialist school place for her son this is their next challenge. John, my office manager, is called to an altercation over the road. The police are called and a few people take respite in the office while the road is blocked. There are bin collections missed and drop kerb requests. A family of five made homeless due to rent arrears ask us for help to understand income, tax credits and housing options. The father is anxious for his family in temporary accommodation, left there while he works three cleaning and caretaking jobs through the night and day. A local volunteer community worker comes in to see how we can overcome cutbacks in local play services for children. He knows the council can't afford it any more (because he lives in the real world) but wants us to try to do something together. There are many more calls and drop-ins.

The school run brings in kids and their parents. Tea and biscuits are given out, things are knocked over much to amusement of the little ones. Some have immigration problems after they fled the regime in the Congo. Others want help with issues of bullying at work. We call ACAS, get advice and I tell them how much a tribunal will cost. They wince.

Another little boy from the school next door brings me a mock-up he has made of my office in class. He is five, and has mistakenly written on the front "Jess Phillips PM".

So come on David Cameron, come and show the people in Birmingham Yardley what being the PM looks like. Come and act shocked at their realities. You have shown this week that you are oblivious to the harm you cause.

I tell you what. If you agree to come, to be fair to you, I'll invite the wealthier people your policies have helped. I'll make tea for all the people in my constituency who have benefited from your changes to inheritance tax thresholds. All four of them can easily sit in my consulting room. I think I might struggle to fit in the 24,000 children predicted to be poorer from tax credit changes. No doubt they will all come through here at some point.

So Mr Cameron I've shown you mine, will you show me yours? Fancy a swap? No, I thought not.

Jess Phllips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley