A diary of a week in my life, published in the House Magazine

In early March 2010 the House Magazine published a diary of a week in my life, and I thought readers might like to see it as well:

Thursday 4 March

Today is a big day for Tony Wright MP and his Select Committee – it is the Debate on their proposed reforms to Parliament. I am glad to see their ideas – some of which I called for when I was Shadow Leader of the House – are welcomed and accepted. They should lead to Select Committees being more independent and give MPs more say over the Agenda of the House.

I particularly support the idea of electing the Committee Chairmen by secret ballot. This will give the Chairmen their own mandates and enable them to feel confident in standing up to Government as they scrutinise what departments do. I am also a supporter of more public involvement in initiating debate and law making and a better dialogue between parliament and the public is sorely needed.

Later in the day, I am back in Royston to visit Mr Buckley in Kipling Road, who takes me to meet his neighbours and talk over concerns about the proposed development on one side of their estate and the planned railway underpass on the other.

Friday 5 March

Today is Women’s World Day of Prayer and I have been invited to the Central Methodist Church in Letchworth Garden City for the interdenominational Service. It is a brilliant occasion with the service written by women from many religions in Cameroon. Each year a different country takes the lead. Although the service was drawn up many months ago, the congregation are struck by the relevance of references to earthquakes and our thoughts are with Haiti and Chile. Afterwards I was able to talk to many who took part in the readings over a cup of tea and some great cakes – another blow to Lent!

Later that evening, I go to a Conservative event in Royston. It is good to see so many people there and a great deal of excitement about the forthcoming Election. Many volunteer to help with election tasks such as poster preparation and canvassing. Spirits are high.

Saturday 6 March

Today I am going on a training run with Letchworth Garden City’s super-fundraiser Richard Kell. Richard is a fantastic marathon runner who is determined to raise £1 million in a year for Help for Heroes (see more at http://www.midasmarathon.com). Next weekend he is running the equivalent of four marathons between four Football league grounds – all in twenty four hours. He will start at Peterborough United’s London Road ground at 3pm on Friday and hopes to arrive at Watford’s ground in time to watch the fixture between POSH and the Hornets on Saturday afternoon. I am glad to support Richard and as I am taking part in the Sport Relief Westminster Mile next Wednesday I am grateful for his helpful tips. We have a good jog round Manor Arboretum in Willian, and although I certainly won’t be catching Richard up in a race, I wish him well!

After the run, I go to David’s Bookshop in Letchworth Garden City – a fantastic bookshop and a great meeting place. I spot a first edition of the 1913 book about Letchworth called “The Garden City: A Study in the Development of a Modern Town” by C B Purdom. It is an interesting read, detailing the first ten years of the world’s First Garden City. I give in to temptation and buy it.

It is good to see my son William later in the day and he offers to help prepare posters tomorrow.

Sunday 7 March

I spend the morning with a team of helpers stripping old Oliver Heald 2005 posters off stakes ready for the latest batch. Then, as there are no offspring at home demanding a family roast, Christine and I sneak off to see if Jeff Bridges deserves his Oscar nomination for Crazy Heart. We usually like to support the privately owned cinema in Letchworth, but for some reason the film hasn’t been on there, so we have to drive from the Garden City to Stevenage New Town. Jeff gives the performance of his life and we are pleased to see the next morning that he has won.

Monday 8 March

I have been trying to improve my fitness for some months and Richard at the gym is pleased with my progress. Unfortunately, my researcher Martin has been to Istanbul for the weekend and brings back the most delicious baklava. That won’t help.

The office is very busy. I am receiving an enormous number of Questionnaires for the Candidate and every charity seems to be encouraging its supporters to email with their own wish-list of spending pledges. They don’t say where they think the money will come from.

I read the papers for the Committee on Standards in Public Life meeting on Thursday, start writing a speech on how to reform employment law to encourage flexibility in the labour market and start researching the Bribery Bill – I am on the Standing Committee starting next week.

Tuesday 9 March

I spend the morning on correspondence and more questionnaires and then go into the Chamber for Opposition Day Debates. I think that Bob Neill opens the Debate about unitary authorities in Exeter and Norwich in a very telling way. I was shocked that the Permanent Secretary had warned the Secretary of State John Denham that his decisions would lead to a strong case for a judicial review. Ministers would normally be very concerned by such advice; in effect the most senior and experienced civil servant in his Department saying that no reasonable Minister could make these decisions! What Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister would have called “courageous”.

I chair the Society of Conservative Lawyers’ Executive Meeting, where we discuss Access to Justice. Many lawyers are concerned that members of the public just cannot afford to bring cases to court. We have seen a surge in membership of the Society lately and I feel it is because Conservative lawyers sense the possibility of change and are keen to be involved in the process.

Wednesday 10 March

Today is the day of the Westminster Mile but first I go into Prime Minister’s Questions. David Cameron is as fiery as I have seen him. He is very annoyed that Labour MPs are shouting that Generals who criticised the Prime Minister for underfunding the Armed Forces are “a bunch of Tories”. The Speaker has to have several attempts at restoring order. Christine tells me it made for exciting TV.

Then I go to Westminster Hall, dressed in my Sport Relief t-shirt, jogging bottoms and red Sport Relief socks, to register and take part in the Westminster Mile, up and down The Mall. I am not the fastest, but I get round and it is good to raise the profile of the Sport Relief Mile on 21st March. Martin has recently persuaded me to invest in a Flip video camera that can be downloaded onto my website. He brings it along to try it out and his efforts – which I think are good – can be seen on my blog.

It is so unusual to have a free Wednesday evening that Christine and I go to The Green Zone, starring Matt Damon, at the Empire Leicester Square. Now that’s what I call a film – all action and Matt’s as good as ever!

Thursday 11 March

Today I am attending a Committee Meeting on Standards in Public Life, where we are deciding what our next inquiries will be about. Then it is back to Royston and more paperwork.

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