Guest Blog: Grant Allen: Pairing up with John Leech MP

I spent last week shadowing John in the House of Commons as part of Royal Society Westminster Pairing Scheme. I have to say it has positively revolutionized my understanding of the selfless, honest, tireless and important work that MPs and their support staff do on the behalf of the British public and especially their constituents. And I thought I was busy!

From meeting John in Portcullis House on Monday, I was immediately made to feel welcome and I felt that John went out of his way to make sure that I truly experienced what it is like to be an MP at Westminster. Equally, John took great interest in my research and clearly understands cutting edge science and we had some excellent discussions about the interface between science and policy; as well as topical scientific issues such as 4G, the threats to air travel by volcanic ash and the pros and cons of extracting shale gas in the North West.

John gave me some great advice on how we might both take these forward and I look forward to working with John and Parliament in this regard in the future. It is clear to me that Parliament and Government take science very seriously and this scheme, and the support it receives from MPs like John, is key to making sure that future generations of scientists and politicians communicate with each other efficiently and effectively.

The Royal Society Scheme (with John’s help) has done exactly what it said on the tin. I now know the mechanisms by which I can best engage with MPs, Parliament and Government and bring my expertise to bear for the benefit of those who need scientific information. I feel that I understand how this information is gathered and used by decision-makers. And most importantly, I have confidence in the process and the honest work done by those who use it.

Working with John and those in his office has been a real eye-opener. Anyone who has any doubt about the efforts MPs go to look after their constituents' interests and those of this country as a whole, should work with John for a day like I've had the privilege to and only then would they understand the extraordinary value they get from those representing them.

I can't praise John and those working with him enough and I now look forward to hosting John at the University of Manchester and to shadowing him in his constituency office.

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