Monday 4.30 am alarm – goodness! Off to London to ITV studios and Good Morning Britain. I am asked if I’ve written a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The answer is “no”, I haven’t. In Westminster where MPs are meeting Network Rail, Greater Anglia and the Department of Transport about long term plans for Great Eastern Main Line. We want more investment in the line but now we will have to compete against bids from other parts of the country. I am pleased to hear negotiations for 15-minute Delay/Repay are moving forward and that more colleagues are supporting proposals for Chelmsford’s second railway station. Off to Sky TV for a discussion on Brexit talks.
Meet the head of UK Finance to discuss cyber attacks and the “take five” campaign to help people protect their accounts, also discuss Fake News and “Deep Fake” videos. In Chamber, ask Amber Rudd in her new job as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about Universal Credit and benefits for people leaving prison (important to help stop re-offending). Host a busy event to help women in tech. Helpful phone call with the acting Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, the medical school is going well as are most nursing courses, but he is concerned about a drop in the number of applicants for “adult nursing” training. Debate on Finance Bill runs late into the night. Votes finish at 11pm.
Tuesday Start the day helping my disabled mother catch a train back to Somerset. People are so kind. Then to Science and Tech Committee where we are doing an investigation into the impact of research and innovation spending. Get a message that the Foreign Office Minister is to be asked an “Urgent Question” on the upcoming elections for President of Interpol, go into overdrive mode arranging for briefings to be provided to MPs and making sure colleagues who follow Foreign Affairs are aware. BBC interview on Brexit talks. Weekly meeting of the European Statutory Instrument Committee scrutinising at technical level changes to laws because of Brexit. Meet the Secretary of State for Health about the rare condition PKU which affects two children in Chelmsford. Finally get to the end of the Finance Bill debate, all amendments are agreed, and we are told no vote needed but it is too late to get to the Essex Pride prize giving in Chelmsford. I hope it went well.
Wednesday It’s 100 years since women were given the right to stand in elections. We have 350 women coming to parliament from all over the country to learn about becoming MPs and an action-packed day ahead as part of the #Askhertostand campaign. Early start telling Sky TV breakfast show about this.
In the Women and Equalities Select Committee we are taking evidence on the issues women face when standing for election, including additional harassment. We also hear from former female MPs about their achievements (v impressive). Speaker agrees to another Urgent Question for the Foreign Office team, this time on Yemen, so I rearrange my diary and organise briefings. After PMQs I go to the massive Westminster Hall which is packed for a #AskHerTo Stand photo call. Our 350 women visitors are joined by the MPs they are shadowing, it’s great to see so many people involved.
Host a panel event with the Fawcett Society and “mother of the house” Harriet Harman MP, this is very much a cross party day. Join a debate on training for nurses. I explain the situation at Anglia Ruskin University and ask the minister to look at additional funding for those taking adult nursing courses. Tea with my head of staff who is celebrating a big birthday. One more panel event for our centenary day. Over to Downing Street for a discussion about the EU negotiations and next steps. 10pm home.
Thursday Today was meant to be a gentle day with the Home Office Minister, Victoria Atkins MP coming to Chelmsford to open our refurbished office and have lunch with my Association members. BUT….. my phone starts buzzing, the Prime Minister is completing the EU negotiations and we are all needed back in the House of Commons.
I rush back to London for a pre-brief and then into the Commons Chamber for her Statement. I listen to the PM speak and then answer questions for three hours. There seem to me to be four options. We could leave the EU without any deal and without plans of a new trade deal with the EU, but this is deeply uncertain for many businesses and jobs; we are warned of a significant economic drop. A second option which some MPs favour is another referendum, but I believe this would lead to even bigger divisions in the country. Another group of MPs want to reopen the negotiations and try to have a Norway style deal, or a Canada style deal – but the first of these leaves us with even less control over our laws and the second means hard borders, neither resolve the Northern Ireland issue. Or we accept the Prime Minister’s negotiated deal. It is not a perfect deal, but it respects the referendum and protects jobs and security.
Friday Finally, some time to catch up on emails! Then off to Marks Tey to speak at a lunch event. Lots of support for the Prime Minister from the women present. Into Chelmsford to meet with the head of a Schools Academy Trust who wants to open a new special needs school. Then meeting with the bosses of 'Provide' who talk to me about their work helping patients across Chelmsford. Evening at the Cricket club where Conservative Party members from across Essex have joined to consider whether Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will stand as the candidate again. Roger takes us though a detailed discussion on the challenges facing modern day policing and we hear some impressive stories about the work of Essex Police. We hear about the additional 150 officers who are completing their training. There is great support from many of those present. I am very glad that he is reselected by an overwhelming majority.
Saturday Lovely afternoon watching Eastern Region water polo championships for the under 12s in Riverside swimming pools. They have held their competition here for many, many years but this is the last time in the old pool. The matches are very exciting, and the players are super-fit. Lots of excitement about our new swimming pools.