The footballer MP who always plays extra time

11th May 2001 at 01:00
Claire Ward, at 28 the youngest woman in the House of Commons, describes her long but enjoyable working week as the Labour Member for Watford


I go into my constituency office first thing in the morning to discuss what needs doing during the week. Then I might visit a local community organisation or a school. I really enjoy that because I think it's important that young people should understand democracy; fewer people are voting nowadays and teenagers want to know why they should get involved.

With a sixth-form group I'll answer questions or discuss political issues as part of a general studies or politics A-level class. I think older teenagers find it fairly easy to identify with me; I'm much closer in age to them than many of their teachers. I find it useful to challenge the stereotype that all MPs are male, white, middle-aged and grey-suited.

By midday I'm in my Westminster office. I attend question time in the House of Commons at 2.30pm; I might ask a question myself. Afterwards, I'll catch up on my paperwork until 10 or 12 at night, watching debates on a televised feed in my office.


I'll attend a meeting of the all-party film industry group. This looks at issues like film classification, and tax incentives for film companies. I am particularly interested in films because Leavesden Studios, one of the most successful production centres, is in my constituency; I recently visited the set of the new Harry Potter film there. The all-party groups function well because MPs of different political outlooks are sharing ideas on issues they are concerned about. People see us as always bickering, but MPs can actually work well together.

After more paperwork, I'll be ready for a drink in one of the House of Commons bars with colleagues.


If I'm feeling fit, I might play five-a-side with the all-party football group first thing in the morning. Then it's more paperwork or a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, our chance to discuss Government policies. In the afternoon, it's Prime Minister's question time, so the chamber is packed.


In the morning, I'll attend a meeting of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. This is a great committee to be on because there have been a lot of interesting, controversial issues like the Dome, the Royal Opera House, Wembley Stadium, BBC funding and News a Ten. Unlike the Education Select Committee, MPs are not constrained by hardline politics, so members are freer to focus on the issues.

Commons business now finishes at 7pm on Thursday evenings, so I head back to Watford.


I hold a surgery for my constituents every week. The big issues are benefits, the Child Support Agency and housing. Demand for affordable housing in Watford is high. Asylum and immigration rules can also be concerns as 10 per cent of my constituents are from ethnic minorities. They may come to see me when requests for visas by their families in Pakistan and India have been turned down. People also ask for help when they don't get the school they want. The Watford schools are very good and there is a lot of demand for places. I can't act for individual constituents in such cases but I can see if there is a pattern to the problems they have or a policy that needs changing.


I'll help to run a Labour party stall in the high street or open a fair. I'll also try to get along to the Watford FC match with some friends; I've always been a keen supporter.


In the mornings I'll be knocking on doors and listening to people's concerns. It's very important to get out and about, not just at election time. I spend the afternoon catching up on housework and visiting my family, who also live in Hertfordshire. I like being an MP because every day is so different.

Using the diary Studying Claire Ward's timetable can increase our understanding of parliamentary processes and procedures in a PSHE lesson on citizenship, writes Sue Jones.

In groups, the class should go through Claire's diary and sort her activities into the different aspects of an MP's job, such as passing laws, scrutinising the work of the Government and representing constituents. Most MPs are also members of a political party and work to promote its policies.

Students should then list the skills and personal characteristics Claire Ward needs to do the different tasks and collect these ideas as a class. Back in groups, students could create a profile of their "ideal MP" and write their CV. Consider age, education, family, social background, previous jobs and experience and anything else they think relevant. Then compare the CVs as a class. Written follow-up could consider "What should we expect of our MP?" Interview by Susannah Kirkman

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