Whirl­wind start to life as an MP for Alis­ter

The Galloway News - - INTIMATIONS - Stu­art Gille­spie

With what passes for the Scot­tish sum­mer now over, the coun­try’s MPs re­turned toWest­min­ster this week.

Par­lia­ment re­sumed on Tues­day with Dum­fries and Gal­loway’s Alis­ter Jack tak­ing his place in the House of Com­mons.

The Con­ser­va­tive de­feated the SNP’s Richard Ark­less in June’s snap gen­eral elec­tion to se­cure his seat in Lon­don, al­though he was there for lit­tle more than a month be­fore the sum­mer re­cess.

He said: “It’s been very busy, much busier than I thought it would be. It’s been fas­ci­nat­ing, tir­ing and very in­ter­est­ing.

“For the first few weeks you go into West­min­ster and have in­duc­tion cour­ses and in the mean­time you’re get­ting a lot of e-mails and a lot of re­quests for meet­ings. You very quickly have to learn how to man­age your di­ary and your time.

“After those first few weeks, which were quite tor­tu­ous for want of a bet­ter ex­pres­sion, there’s no doubt I’ve got into the swing of it and started to work out the causes I think we need to cham­pion in this area and picked up on the case­work that’s rel­e­vant com­ing through all the mass of let­ters and com­mu­ni­ca­tions you get.

“You’ve got to find the ones that re­ally mat­ter the most, which are the pri­or­ity for peo­ple that need help.

“Pick­ing those ones out has been very im­por­tant and get­ting things done for them has been very im­por­tant.

“A key thing, whether it’s for busi­nesses lo­cat­ing here or tourism, is broad­band speeds and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. If you don’t have that then, in this mod­ern day, you’re not go­ing to have ev­ery­thing else fall­ing into place.

“The next thing we need to work on is the trans­port in­fra­struc­ture for the re­gion and im­prov­ing that so that when peo­ple do come they find it easy to get around about Dum­fries and Gal­loway.

“Up­grad­ing the A75 is im­por­tant as is up­grad­ing the A77 com­ing down past Cairn­ryan from Glas­gow as that port needs to func­tion re­ally well.”

Un­less you’ve been liv­ing un­der a rock – or suf­fer­ing from the poor telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems that Mr Jack men­tioned – it’s been im­pos­si­ble to avoid news of the UK leav­ing the Euro­pean Union.

And there’s no es­cape for MPs ei­ther as Brexit is set to take up the bulk of their time for the rest of the year.

“It’s im­por­tant we get that right and it needs a lot of fo­cus and scru­tiny,” ex­plained Mr Jack. “I will be push­ing to make sure that our farm­ers and our ru­ral busi­nesses are pro­tected. I think Brexit is about con­stantly re­mind­ing the min­is­ters and civil ser­vants who are han­dling it of the things that mat­ter to your con­stituents be­cause they’ll be look­ing at what’s in front of them and they need to be re­minded that there’s lots of other things that have knock-on ef­fects.

“If you think about the timetable for ex­it­ing the Euro­pean Union, the clock’s been tick­ing since March. We’re com­ing up to six months in, there’s 18 months to go. To process such a ma­jor bill through both par­lia­ments you need all of that time.”

Mr Jack was vice chair­man of the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives from 1997 to 2001 – a time when the party had no MPs north of the bor­der.

Then for many years David Mun­dell was the sole Tory voice in Scot­land but in June’s elec­tion the num­ber shot up to 13, among them the new Dum­fries and Gal­loway mem­ber.

“I said in my maiden speech I was proud to be one of a baker’s dozen of Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives re­turned to West­min­ster and I was also proud that we had turned the ta­bles and im­posed a Con­ser­va­tive Gov­ern­ment on the English,” he said.

“The Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives re­turn to West­min­ster was key to Theresa May hang­ing on as Prime Min­is­ter.

“We were ac­cused of run­ning a one di­men­sional cam­paign but the re­al­ity is it worked very ef­fec­tively and we stood foursquare against a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum com­ing so soon after the first one.

“The divi­sion it cre­ates, the un­cer­tainty it cre­ates for the Scot­tish econ­omy, these things are to be avoided. That mes­sage went down well with the elec­torate. We got a strong re­sponse across the whole of Scot­land.”

The day be­fore par­lia­ment re­turned, Mr Jack’s new con­stituency of­fice opened in Academy Street in Dum­fries.

He will also be hold­ing monthly surg­eries around the re­gion and peo­ple can also get in touch through e-mail.

But some­thing he is not so keen on is so­cial me­dia, which has be­come an in­creas­ing part of pol­i­tics in re­cent years.

He ex­plained: “I think so­cial me­dia can be a few peo­ple mak­ing a lot of noise very of­ten and I don’t think we should be too dis­tracted by it. It’s im­por­tant to carry on com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in this area, through the news­pa­pers. When we’re hav­ing our surg­eries we can’t just ad­ver­tise them through Face­book be­cause Dum­fries and Gal­loway has an older pop­u­la­tion and the per­cent­age of those peo­ple us­ing Face­book is far less than in other parts of the coun­try.

“Yes, so­cial me­dia has a part to play in in­form­ing peo­ple but you’re not in­form­ing every­one. Equally, there are a few peo­ple who get very ex­cited about it and do a lot of com­mu­ni­cat­ing but if you were to en­gage in so­cial me­dia the whole time you would never get any­thing else done.

“It’s im­por­tant to keep your time free to do the things that mat­ter.

“Rather than talk­ing to a few peo­ple you need to work for the many.”

Changeover Alis­ter Jack won the seat from Richard Ark­less at the snap elec­tion

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