Universal Credit

Believe it or not, the vast majority of those amongst us in the Palace of Westminster are in politics because – yes - they genuinely want to make some kind of positive impact on the condition of lives. They associate with different political parties not because they differ in that aim, but simply because they differ in how to achieve it.

It’s also said that some seek power. I doubt I’ll disappoint anyone when I say that climbing greasy poles isn’t for me. But no matter, because when it comes to power, the meek and humble backbencher has plenty of the stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was one of the twelve Conservative MPs to write to the Secretary of State to ask for a pause in the rollout of Universal Credit until the implementation issues could be ironed out. This letter brought the matter to wide attention and last week the Opposition tabled a motion asking for the pause.

When it came to a vote and we all (except one) abstained, I know from my inbox that many people were baffled. Some spotted that perhaps there was more to the situation, but I certainly don’t blame those who didn’t. As history can tell, I’m perfectly happy to vote against the government if necessary. But I didn’t. So what’s an abstention going to achieve?

In response to the letter, the debate – both public and in Parliament – and the vote, I met with all manner of officials last week, along with ministers and the Secretary of State. There was also a meeting with the PM. Behind those scenes we were trying to get the underlying issues addressed.  In the end, when we had agreements for addressing all the problems associated with the UC rollout: the up to six week delay; the phone number costs (not premium as widely reported, but local rate and charged at rip-off prices by some phone companies); the repayment of emergency funds - when we had agreements to address all this, we agreed not to press the vote.

Such is the extraordinary mechanics of our parliamentary democracy. A few backbenchers, brimming with humility, turn tiny cogs and mighty gears shudder into action. Over the next few weeks I hope you will see the results. And, I hope, the positive impact.