On 6 July, Ed Balls went about his usual hectic schedule, but he was accompanied by his constituent and Mencap campaigner Susan Hanley. Here, Susan recounts her afternoon with the shadow chancellor in his constituency, Morley and Outwood, near Leeds
It started like any other day – I woke up at 8am, got dressed and had my breakfast. But it wasn’t just another day, because I was going to spend the afternoon shadowing my local MP and shadow chancellor Ed Balls. I was so excited. I had to dress smart, so I wore a red linen suit to match the Labour colour.
I first met Ed when I was campaigning for the ‘End the care crisis’campaign, earlier this year. A group of people with a learning disability met some MPs in Leeds, to tell them why the social care system needs to change. Ed was there, so I asked him if I could come and work with him to find out what it’s like to be an MP, and he said yes.
I was looking forward to meeting him again. I already had the plan of what we would be doing and it was going to be a busy afternoon, but it sounded really interesting – I couldn’t wait.
2pm:Ed’s assistant, Jo, came to pick me up in a car from my house in Morley. We drove to Ed’s office, which is also in Morley. So it only took about ten minutes to get there. We had a sandwich and a quick chat, while we waited for Ed to arrive from London.
2.30pm:Ed arrived and he took me into his office – he said that I could sit in his chair (pictured above). Then I asked him some questions. I asked him what it was like to be an MP, and some general questions to get to know him, as it was a while since I’d met him the first time. I asked him why he wanted to be an MP in the first place and he said he wanted to make a difference. Ed is a lovely man. He made me feel comfortable.
3pm:After lunch, we went straight off to our first meeting at the Knowle Manor care home for older people (pictured right). We talked to the people there, for about half an hour. They talked about local issues and also the ‘Grey Pride’ campaign, which is asking the government to create a new job – minister for older people. There is a minister for disabled people, so I think a minister for older people sounds like a good idea. It was a very good meeting and I met some nice people. We were just chatting really – the people seemed to like Ed.
3.30pm:We had to leave to go to another meeting, so we got back in the car and drove to Wakefield. It was all very hectic – Ed is a very busy man, so we were always rushing around. Ed said that travelling around to different places was part of his job, and I enjoy that.
4pm:We got to the next meeting – I can’t really say a great deal about this one, because I’m sworn to secrecy! It was a top-level meeting with all the Wakefield MPs and local NHS bosses. I didn’t say anything as I was just an observer.
5pm:We then went back to Morley to a local policing meeting. It was pouring with rain and Ed put his file over my head so I wouldn’t get wet (pictured below). There were a lot of people at the meeting – local Morley people. It was a meeting that Ed had organised about policing, and members of the community came along. He got people to say what they were worried about and got people to talk about police cutbacks. Then he introduced me.
I introduced myself and talked about the new police and crime commissioners, and about getting people to vote for them in November. I said that I would be asking the commissioners to include hate crime in the plans for their areas. That was my favourite meeting, because I could say something – I love public speaking because I feel like I’m being heard. Everyone clapped when I did my speech – it was really good.
6pm:We finished the meeting and then I went home. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day – I was still excited. I wanted to go and do it all again. I would like to become an MP one day.
A couple of days later, I got a letter from Ed. It said:
‘It was fantastic to spend the afternoon with you. It was a really successful afternoon. You were so enthusiastic and helpful. You did a great job of introducing yourself to the constituents and were excellent at getting involved in the conversation. I hope you found the experience useful.’
I have written a letter back to Ed, to say thank you for the opportunity. I also said that I would love to go to more talks and meetings with him, if possible. I will hand in the letter at his office.
Ed and I have also written to the chief executive of Mencap, Mark Goldring, about helping more people to get involved with their MP. I really enjoyed my time with Ed and I will continue to work to help people with a learning disability get more involved in the community and the government.