Prior to each General Election the same remarks surfaced, and this time the opportunity came when two politicians commented on a similar subject so I try to think aloud and perhaps try to make some sense and meaning out of them.
I have never grown tired of hearing this....."I only see my MP coming during election times". Mind you now that the WP is occupying several electoral wards, they too are not spared from this unpleasant remarks.
Apparently it has become an expected norm to see MPs doing frequent house-to-house visits apart of their inherent duty of Meet-The-People Sessions. I would think it is fair expectation, but expecting to see your MP visiting you can be quite unreal.
There are some real and practical considerations to this exercise. MPs more often than not have to resort to guessing when is the best day and best time to conduct house-to-house visits in order to reap optimal effectiveness.
Sunday mornings used to be the best time when the whole family gets to be at home together. Not anymore. Sundays have become the best day for families to have a family day out, or even a staycation somewhere over the weekend. Then again there is no magic formula in the guesswork. Whatever else, it seems that PAP MPs are unofficially expected to perform this traditional ritual of house-to--house visit covering the whole constituency at least twice within the electoral term.
Some MPs did extremely well achieving over and beyond the unwritten benchmark. How do you do that?
Before we learn of how these MPs are such high performers in conducting house-to-house visits, we look at the basics.
Starting with a typical 30,000 households constituency and 5 years to finish visiting them twice. Let us say the MP spends 3 hours for each session spending 5 minutes each chatting with residents, that session will reach about 36 households. We'll bring it down to 30 households for easy computation on basis that some homes take a little more time. Let's add another 30 households with no one home, thus not consuming any of the allocated time, that 3 hour session effectively covers 60 households.
One 3 hour house-to-house visit session completes reaching 60 households. To reach the same household twice, you need 2 sessions. 500 sessions to cover entire constituency once, and of course 1000 to cover twice.
If you only conduct one session every weekend, you need 19 years to visit the same household twice, not ruling out the same household with no one home repeats itself. Thus once a week is insufficient, so what some super performers did was to triple the sessions a week, and reduce the time for each household to a negligible handshake that takes no more than a minute.
Thus when Minister Tan Chuan Jin spoke about spending more time to understand the issue, he may not in numbers term finish visiting every household in his constituency.
Am I saying Minister Tan is underperforming? I'll leave it to trash sites to spread the lies, but the truth is he has chosen quality rather than quantity. In real politics, you need quantity more than quality. You need exposure, you need to put your face and finger prints all over the place, and you need to make sure no one can accuse you of not doing your job.
Workers party has chose an efficient way of reaching out to residents. They get banners printed bearing information that the MP will be at a certain location to meet residents for a chit-chat session. Tea and snacks will be served therefore it is called "Tea Session". They took pictures of it and posted the session on Facebook to make sure no one accuses them of not doing anything. It is so much more convenient and relaxed on the part of WP MPs.
But did Minister Tan cared more for politics or the lives of his residents? It means that there will be more people pointing fingers at him for not visiting their house. The comfort and satisfaction coming out of his choice is he gets to asked more question, some may be a little bit more personal. He gets to preserve and protect the privacy of his residents by shielding their problems away from public scrutiny.
Finally, comparing Minister Tan's walking the ground with Yee Jen Jong's 4-year walk, how will these two to be appraised together. Yee said his 4 years of walking the ground is wasted notwithstanding that he is being paid by parliament. There is no requirement that he needs to walk in order to be paid. Maybe he is saying that if he knew Joo Chiat were to be taken away, he would not have spent so much time with residents there. Relationship with these people does not pay.