Monday, 23 August 2010

Why MPs Are Not Supposed To Interfere In Planning Issues. Or Anything Else, For That Matter.

I need to book The Boss on to some sort of refresher course to clarify what MPs are supposed to get involved with, and what they shouldn't touch with a bargepole. In fact a beginner's course would do: given that he's never taken any notice of the guidance. He gets bitten firmly on the arse today, though - Greg and I haven't had so much fun for ages.

Andrew gets to the post before I do, and spends most of the morning at my desk reading the predominantly loony letters. Then he calls me into my own office, and says,

"Molly, we need to do something to close these damned stupid cases."

"I couldn't agree more, Andrew. How do you propose we do it? Seeing as you always ignore my suggestions."

"What suggestions?"

"Well, when I tell the usual suspects that there's nothing further we can do for them, and then they phone you or the girls at Westminster to complain about me, maybe you could try actually backing me up. For once," I say, but he's not listening.

"Oh, bugger it." Andrew is trying to access his email. As usual, he thinks that the remote Parliamentary system has been created for the sole purpose of making his life difficult. As if he ever answers his emails anyway. He thumps the side of the monitor and says,

"Get me the PDVN* on the phone. I'm going to get this piece of crap sorted once and for all."

I can't be bothered to argue, so I make the call, and when I get an automated message asking for my contact details and promising to phone me back, I give Andrew's name instead of mine. I am not going to sit through three hours of watching the PC being remotely controlled by a help-desk person, all because The Boss can't bear to wait more than a second for anything that he wants. (He's just like Josh.)

Tying Andrew to the desk (even if only metaphorically-speaking) will have the added benefits of distracting him from interfering with our work, and giving someone else the dubious pleasure of listening to him ranting. By the time he's confused the hell out of PICT* with his Luddite version of what's wrong, it'll take them hours to work out that there actually isn't a problem at all. Apart from his lack of patience.

The plan works a dream, and when Andrew's still stuck in front of the computer at lunchtime, Greg and I decide we might as well make the most of it, so we consign our packed lunches to their inevitable fate, and do a runner to the pub.

In hindsight, this may not have been a wise decision. Not because we get drunk - we don't - but because when we come back, The Boss has abandoned his attempt to sort out the unbroken email system and has become dangerously bored.

"Some people coming in to see me in a minute, Molly," he says. "Bring 'em up when they get here. I'm going to eat my sandwiches in the Oprah Room." His sandwiches? God almighty. That Tupperware box belongs to Greg's mum.

"Who's coming to see you?" I say. "Your diary is clear this afternoon. Or it's supposed to be."

"Oh, we had a letter from the St Helen's Road residents in this morning's mail," says Andrew. "I phoned them up while you and Greg were AWOL, and asked them if they wanted to come in and have a chat. I've got a bit of time on my hands today, after all - and it'll save you writing a reply."

"A chat about what?" I say, but then Joan phones from reception to tell me that some constituents are waiting downstairs to see The Boss.

"I want a word, before you talk to them," I say, as I head for the corridor. "And get all that egg mayo out of your teeth before they see you. Looks like plaque."

When I show the St Helen's Road Residents Association representatives in to the Oprah Room, I go to take a seat myself, but Andrew stops me.

"Oh, I don't need you for this, Molly," he says. "It's only a friendly chat with my constituents. Just how I like it. You go and get on with all the important work we do for the hardworking families of Northwick."

He edges me out and when I turn round to argue with him, he shuts the door in my face. The damn thing nearly knocks me out. I make several extravagant two-fingered gestures at the closed door, while Greg raises an eyebrow.

"What do you reckon?" he says. "The hostel?"

"Oh, I should think so," I say. "Well, he can damn well get himself out of this one. Muppet."

Two hours later, Andrew exits the Oprah Room, each arm around a giggling middle-aged woman, while three others look at him adoringly.

"I'll just show these lovely ladies out, Molly," he says. "And then we'll write to the Head of Planning and make it quite clear that we can't have that hostel built on St Helen's Road."

"Let me tell him," says Greg, as soon as Andrew has gone.

"No, I am bloody well telling him," I say. "I deserve it after nearly getting my nose broken by that door."

"Telling him what?" says The Boss. How did he get back so quickly - and so quietly?

"That hostel -" I say.

"Yeah, ridiculous idea. What about it?"

"Well, aside from the fact that MPs aren't supposed to interfere in planning issues - as I keep telling you - have you any idea who the hostel is for?" I keep a perfectly straight face, though Greg starts laughing.

"Some bloody dodgy types," says Andrew. "The sort I wouldn't want to live next to."

"That's as maybe," I say. "But they are the clients of the Easemount HalfWay House Project. Of which you are patron - as of last month."

"Oh shit," says Andrew.

I am really going to enjoy seeing how he gets himself out of this one. It's about time I started teaching the idiots by whom I seem to be surrounded how to take responsibility for their actions.

As a result of this timely reminder not to encourage dependency in others, I shall not be responding to any more of Josh's calls to my mobile telling me that he "urgently needs" a delivery of food and drink to his bedroom. He's only got one bloody arm out of action, after all.

*PDVN - Parliamentary Data and Video Network, who used to be the people responsible for Parliamentary email, remote access to the Parliamentary Intranet etc. Now known as *PICT, which stands for Parliamentary Information and Communications Technology - but The Boss can never remember this. He isn't very adaptable to change.

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