Monday Early start talking to BBC Essex about the sad story of a man, Mr O’Connor, who has died whilst sleeping rough in Chelmsford. I am on the radio with Rob Saggs who runs the charity CHESS which helps homeless people. Off to London for a long meeting with MPs and Train experts about the future plans for Great Eastern Mainline - plans for improving signalling and track will cost over £2 billion but are crucial to reduce delays. We discuss how MPs need to work together to raise the funds. We are told about the new trains which are in production. I raise the issue with safety at Chelmsford station and the need for a second station. Call from Chelmsford City council to update me on plans to help rough sleepers during the snow ahead.
Next up “Which?” the consumer organisation, I support their fire safety campaign targeting dangerous electrical goods. Off to the Chamber for Home Office Questions before a meeting with the new President of NASSCOM, the Indian organisation for tech companies, a very impressive woman. India is a hugely innovative country for digital companies, stuffed full of ideas, engineers and demanding consumers - its excellent to talk about our similar and different experiences. Long briefing on state of play of Brexit talks. Dinner meeting discussing Fin Tech, late evening replying to emails.
Tuesday The Chancellor is in the house of commons taking questions from MPs, I ask him about financial services, will this be covered in our new trade deal with Europe. He says that he believes it must, good news for many Chelmsford jobs. Then off to Kings Cross and the Eurostar. The next few days are going to be strange as I’ve been asked to go and meet some of my former MEP colleagues to find out what others are thinking about the Brexit negotiations.
Wednesday & Thursday Start the day meeting Science Europe, discussing medical research and environmental innovation before back to back meetings with MEPs from across Europe. Goodness the negotiations are complicated. I hear that many do want to help find the positive relationship Theresa May has described and I am hopeful – but much, much to do. Long chats especially on Customs. I meet Irish politicians from the border counties. I explain the current EU proposals for one set of rules for Northern Ireland and another for rest of UK just don’t work. We agree better solutions are needed. I get a call from Chelmsford, and advised the show is severe and agree reluctantly to postpone my constituency surgery. Get a late Eurostar back to UK, but all trains are delayed. Snow, snow, snow. I can’t get back to Chelmsford.
Friday I thought it would be a good idea to get some fresh air and see what it is like outside – BIG mistake. Massive slip over in the ice – ouch! Watch the Prime Ministers Speech with ice-pack and cushions. Am pleased to hear the detail. Sensible proposals on areas like medicines, chemical, aviation, good to hear about the Science and Innovation Pact and fighting for a fair trade deal on services. These are all areas which I have been focusing on for past 12 months so it is encouraging to hear the progress.
Saturday Moving tenderly – am meant to be going to the Conservative Club to present a cheque. They have been fundraising for Essex Dementia Care. I hate cancelling appointments but I just cant go.
Sunday It’s the International Women’s day March for Women – but unfortunately I can’t march anywhere today. They send some lovely pictures – especially of “Bloody Difficult Women” banners. I go to the Cathedral for a Civic service for Essex County Council. A true gathering of the “chain gang” of Mayors from all over Essex, it is so good to hear their stories. The music is beautiful. A chorister sing Mendelssohn’s “Wings of a Dove” – what a voice! The preacher, Father Hugh Allan tells us of his recent visit to Tristan de Cunha, the most isolated island on earth. After the service I speak to the head of Essex police, they are pleased with the plans to increase officers and he tells me about his plans for twenty new graduate recruits. Very positive.