New Labour MP planned to sleep in camper van with family as London prices so expensive

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/new-labour-mp-planned-sleep-5943284

Jess Phillips crammed sheets into her battered, “clapped-out”, second-hand VW and set off for the capital with her family after being quoted £1,450 for a three-night stay

Jess Phillips crammed sheets into her battered, “clapped-out”, second-hand VW and set off for the capital with her family after being quoted £1,450 for a three-night stay

Jess Phillips the newly elected MP for Yardley in Birmingham

Transport minister: Jess Phillips with her ‘clapped out’ VW camper van

A newly-elected Labour MP planned to bed down in her camper van with her husband and kids because London hotels were so expensive, she has revealed.

Jess Phillips crammed sheets into her battered, “clapped-out”, second-hand VW and set off for the capital with her family after being quoted £1,450 for a three-night stay.

She is allowed to claim £150 a night for a hotel as an MP, but would have had to cover the other £1,000 herself – and realised she could ease the burden on taxpayers.

It was a stark welcome to the corridors of power for the 33-year-old – and confirmed her worst fears about parliament’s attitudes to families.

“After I got elected I rang the travel office and said I was going to be bringing my children with me for a few days. It was as if I said I was going to bring a nuclear bomb to Westminster,” she said.

“Lots of people kept ringing me back saying, ‘We can find you a bed in this hotel’, and, ‘You can have an adjoining room with your children’ – but they were quoting about £450 a night for three nights.

SWNS Jess Phillips the newly elected MP for Yardley in Birmingham
Hotel hell: Jess Phillips wanted to ease burden on taxpayers

“I just thought that was totally ridiculous. It made me think even more that this isn’t a normal place for normal people with normal families.”

Showing her young kids to her new workplace was important to Jess in helping them understand why their mum would be away from home three nights a week.

So, in her refreshing style that is fast becoming famous around the Commons, she decided to make her own arrangements.

“I just thought, ‘Sod it, we’ve got a VW Camper Van’. I love it, it’s like a member of our family,” said the MP for Birmingham, Yardley, who used to work at a domestic and sexual abuse charity.

“We packed up duvets, rolled-up mattresses and shoved them in the back.”

The family – husband Tom, 36; Harry, 10; and six-year-old Danny – clambered aboard and headed down the M40 to London intending to park up for the night.

In the end, friends with a two-bed flat in South London said they could crash in the living room for a few days.

But the episode highlighted the difficulties, and cost, facing MPs with young families.

Parliament’s working hours have improved over the past 20 years, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair and, more recently, Speaker John Bercow putting in place family-friendly reforms, including installing a crèche.

But Jess feels there is more to do – and is ready to lead the fight for politicians who are also parents of youngsters.

Harry and Danny certainly made the most of their visit to Westminster, performing knee-slides in the airy atrium of Portcullis House, the £235million office block for MPs opened in 2001.

And encouraging kids to feel at home in the heart of Britain’s democracy is key to keeping MPs grounded and in touch with their constituents, said Jess, who ousted Lib Dem MP John Hemming on May 7.

As well as campaigning on benefits, domestic abuse and sexual violence, she hopes to use her unique experience to breathe new life into Parliament.

Jess added: “It’s really not geared for families at all, but hopefully we can change that.”

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