-He pays his wife £35,000 a year to manage his 'office'
By Jason Groves
senior Labour MP was under fire last night after admitting he has not held a surgery for constituents for 14 years.
Sir Stuart Bell, veteran MP for Middlesbrough, was under pressure from the Labour hierarchy to explain himself following claims that constituents cannot contact him.
Most MPs hold local surgeries several times a month for constituents to discuss their problems.
Family affair: Sir Stuart pays his wife Margaret £35,000 a year to work as his office manager
Sir Stuart, 73, admits he has not held one since 1997 and unlike most MPs he also has no office in his constituency.
Sir Stuart, whose wife Margaret is paid £35,000 a year as his office manager, claims he is willing to meet constituents ‘by appointment’ if they contact his Westminster office.
But his local newspaper, the Middlesbrough Gazette, reported this week that it had called his office more than 100 times this summer without reply.
A Labour party spokesman said last night: ‘Ed Miliband and the Labour Party expect the highest standards from Labour representatives. It is totally unacceptable if the public cannot reach their MP.
‘A number of allegations have been raised and these will be discussed with Sir Stuart.’
Sir Stuart, who was answering calls last night, said he had discussed the situation with Labour’s chief whip Rosie Winterton and would be writing to Mr Miliband to explain his circumstances.
Sir Stuart has previously said he stopped holding surgeries after being physically threatened by a voter.
Yesterday he said his office had ‘no record’ of calls made by the local paper, and that not having an office in the town saved the taxpayer money.
He also insisted he was available to discuss his constituents’ problems.
He said: ‘It would be quite wrong for an MP not to be available to his constituents but that is not the case here. I do meet constituents by appointment.’
Residents in Mr Bell's Middlesbrough constituency have complained that the MP is uncontactable
BACKLASH AGAINST BELL: LOCALS SPEAK THEIR MIND
Middlesbrough residents flocked to the website of the local paper the Evening Gazette to vent their fury:
Cannonstreetkid: 'It about time he was put out to grass. I cannot remember him commenting on anything relating to our town or ever doing anything that actually benefits the town.'
normal: 'Stuart Bell and the Labour Party are a disgrace.' He added they know that regardless of what happens 'as working class people they will always have their vote.'
He added that the Labour Party and Bell 'stopped working for this area a long time ago. Get them out.'
borocoffindodger: 'Who is Sir Stuart Bell and what does he do for the idiots who pay his wages?'
'It doesn’t look to me that this guy cares about the town or its people'.
daveyparkender: 'I find it hard to write something without being instantly barred from commenting. This bloke makes my blood boil. More so the people who vote for him back into position!
'I wish I knew the threshold for the adjectives I could get away with to express my feelings for this . . . man who makes me want to wretch.'
Others made their views known on the revelations through Twitter:
Ryan Devlin: 'Quite astonishing story about Stuart Bell MP and disgraceful if there isn’t a proper explanation.'
Markus Robson: 'Labour needs to act on these revelations on Sir Stuart Bell and take a stand. They work for us! and this is totally unacceptable.'