A week in the life of...
29th September 2013
Asked to describe what I do as an MP, my first thought is that there is not really a standard working week and certainly no job description. It's actually more of a vocation than a job.
When the Commons is sitting, I spend the week at Westminster and use Friday to Sunday evening to get round the constituency visiting businesses, schools, charities, voluntary organisations and to hold advice clinics for constituents. In recess, I have more time for local visits. It's about hearing what people have to say at the coal face, which helps to represent them in Westminster. Either way, its seven days a week more often than not.
Starting last Sunday, I spent the early afternoon at a fund raising tea party in the Stukeleys, to raise money for this area. A good chance to catch up with everyone after the summer break and a full tea is laid on. I lamely try to resist scones, cake and more cake - but resistance is futile and I indulge. Suitably fortified, I head off to Huntingdon cricket club, to drop into their charity match. Significant funds have been raised and I enjoy hearing about the excellent youth outreach work they have been doing.
Monday finds me back in Westminster, in an eerily quiet recess Commons, to work on a policy paper I am preparing on Conservative employment and industrial relations policy. If that sounds a bit dry it is certainly relevant to the significant small business sector we have in Hunts, who often complain of red tape holding up their business. Before the 2010 General Election, as the then shadow minister responsible for employment law, I led on employment policy for the manifesto. Looking over what has actually happened in this Parliament, I am pleased to see that we have delivered on most of the proposals. Now it's time to plan the next steps. My team of helpers join me and I am soon deep into debate on such things as unfair dismissal reform and union strike legislation.
An early start on Tuesday, for the opening of the Highways Agency A14 consultation, at Huntingdon racecourse. There are few surprises, as the preferred route is very similar to that proposed in the CHUMMS consultation scheme of 2001. I reflect on the missed opportunities to develop the scheme over the last twelve years. All of the traffic hold-ups, constituents having accidents, business being delayed. This time we really must make this happen. With A14 traffic between 2010 and 2020, forecast to rise by over 25%, the do nothing approach is simply unrealistic, although local environmental and rat-running concerns will need to be addressed. Am pleased to hear that the consultation is being extended to St Neots.
Lunch time speech to a local Rotary Club. I have six Clubs in my own constituency and am very admiring of the charity work they do in their own communities as well as in developing countries. I am an honorary member of Huntingdon Cromwell Rotary and our annual boxing match charity dinner in St Ives is a great event, which anyone can book to go to on 31 January.
Wednesday and it's back to London to attend the Institute of Directors annual conference. The speakers are very numerous and many are inspiring. Boris Johnson has everyone in stitches and George Osborne cautiously explains how the economy is now turning the corner. We listen to great speeches from the Spanish CEO of Santander, the Francophone African CEO of Prudential and the American CEO of Techcity - all explaining why they think Britain is an excellent place to work and do business. Many speakers also discuss the growth of China and all agree that we should see this as a huge business opportunity to capture new markets, rather than some kind of threat.
Thursday requires an early start to get to West Oxfordshire (in the PM's constituency) for the Tory MPs away day. Briefings on polling data, key messages, campaigning tips and policy initiatives follow in rapid succession. The mood is good and the general feeling is that we have had a better summer than Labour, who seem to be delighting in waves of infighting. Our guest speaker is the new (Tory equivalent) Prime Minister of New Zealand, who enters to thunderous applause. What becomes clear as he speaks is how our issues in the UK are so similar to those facing New Zealand. Globalisation has dissolved distance and borders in so many ways.
Friday is devoted to paperwork in the constituency. When I was first elected in 2001, I received 90% of my correspondence by post and 10% by email. Now it is the reverse. Furthermore, email greatly facilitates standard letter campaigns, which could be on anything from asking what I am doing to support cures for a particular form of disease to demanding I take a position on some foreign policy issue. Objecting to badger culling seems popular at the moment. I pull myself away, to attend the relaunch of a financial services company in Kimbolton. They have done really well and grown significantly since I attended their original launch in much smaller offices in 2001. When I drew the cord on the plaque in 2001, the plaque and the curtain fell off the wall; which may be why we had a cake this time.
Friday night is clear, so I take the opportunity for dinner with my wife and family and conversation focuses around my son and getting him ready for the start of university next week.
Saturday takes me to see Huntingdon Stags in action at home versus Peterborough. Just promoted to a higher league, the games look more physical; but after a slow first half Stags get into their stride and win well. Stags also have a great youth programme which is very popular - the main issue with local rugby seems to be the lack of referees.
A local village event on Saturday evening, with a ball in the Alconbury village hall to raise funds for Marie Curie and the local Glyn Faulkner charity. Organised by our neighbour, the hugely enthusiastic Claire Senior and friends, for cancer research and care, some 150 of us enjoy a fun evening. Rebecca and I get the chance to catch up on village gossip. Ladies were meant to come in their wedding dresses, but this was rather more helpful to those that were recently wed; unlike us with our soon to be 23rd wedding anniversary! Claire really is an inspiration to us all.
Thankfully, a quiet Sunday morning. I know there are all the important political programmes on the box, but I prefer quietly relaxing and reading the papers. Later, I head off to Abbotts Ripton church for the dedication of a window to my predecessor, but one, MP, Lord David Renton. Organised by his two charming daughters, Clare and Caroline, we admire the window and then head off to the village pub for a very good lunch. Discussion on how the area has changed so much since David was elected in the 1945 election. But coming out of the pub into the attractive village, I think that it couldn't have been that different looking after the war, outside at least.
A relaxing Sunday afternoon would have been good - but I have agreed to participate in a local Tang Soo Do seminar. So a quick change and off to the Hinchingbrooke gym to be given a hard time, mainly by kids half my age. I am sure it's good for me. Home and early to bed as tomorrow I need to prepare a couple of speeches for our Party conference.