Monday Week starts at Essex County Council for a meeting of the Army and Navy Task Force. We discuss the benefits and drawbacks of many potential options including examples of different flyovers, underpasses and new connecting roads, as well as redesigns of the entire roundabout. It is going to take a few years to plan and deliver a new solution. I’m keen to get the best possible outcome.
Into the House of Commons for a serious briefing from the Chief Whip. The Prime Minister is to announce a delay to the vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement because it is clear the vote will fall unless changes to the Backstop are made. I meet representatives from Chambers of Commerce from countries across Europe. They explain how important it is for their economies to try to avoid a “no deal” Brexit. I’m asked to join a group of colleagues to meet the Prime Minister, she is listening to colleagues. Spend rest of day and evening listening to statements from the PM, the Minister for Exiting the EU and the Leader of the House of Commons and explaining to TV and Radio about what is happening. Tempers are frayed. Late night.
Tuesday Breakfast meeting on how to support vulnerable people struggling with their energy bills. Some very helpful suggestions. Spend morning in the final meetings for the Finance Bill Committee.
Then into House of Commons Chamber for a very long and heated debate about the delayed vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement. I am in the middle of reminding colleagues that the PM has delayed the vote because MPs asked her to work again on the backstop, when Father Christmas appears in the House of Commons. It is most surreal. Go to St Margaret’s Church near Westmisnter Abbey where I join other MPs singing in a choir to raise funds for those affected by Syrian war. It is great to put down politics and pick up a song book. End the day with more TV interviews and long conversations with colleagues.
Wednesday Early morning, the news breaks that the Prime Minister is facing a vote of no confidence in her leadership. Rush into House of Commons. I meet with representatives from the Embassy of the Netherlands. It is clear that they want to support the UK and help break the deadlock over negotiations. They also want to finalise the EU / UK long term trade deal as soon as possible. With so much uncertainty I think the last thing we need at the moment is the uncertainty of a leadership challenge. I go to Select Committee, then TV interviews supporting Prime Minister, then to help the foreign office minister with a debate about the South Seas Sandwich Islands (lovely not to talk about Brexit for a while but instead discuss endangered species and protecting our oceans.)
Then PMQs – Corbyn very cross that the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement has been delayed; Prime Minister very focused on need to find an Agreement that Parliament can support and on defending her vote of no confidence. Then helping Foreign Office team again, this time with questions about the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative and countering fake news propaganda. Pop in to join Save the Children volunteers to discuss their Christmas Jumper Day fundraising campaign. Then help with a debate about the NHS before joining colleagues listening to Theresa May. More media enquiries. It is media mania on the green outside Westminster, TV cameras from across the world are focused on the vote of confidence. I speak to TV and radio stations from the UK, Germany and Ireland before racing back into the House of Commons to vote myself. I support Theresa May. Whilst the votes are counted I go to find the Transport Secretary and bend his ear again about the issues we have on Chelmsford trains, the need for a second railway station and replacing the Army and Navy. The results announcement is dramatic, she wins through. More TV, more conversations with colleagues. Very, very late evening. Midnight McDonald’s on way to bed.
Thursday Finally, a chance to catch up with my team who have been working super-hard on enquiries from constituents. Into the House of Commons where the Secretary of State for Local Government announces plans for funding local government and our councils next year. I remind him that we are building many thousands of new homes across Chelmsford and need the infrastructure to go with it. Then the Police Minister makes announcements about police funding for the year ahead. The £970 million package means another 150 officers could now be added to the force in Essex, on top of the 150 additional officers that joined Essex Police in 2018. More support for counter terrorism and the fight against serious crime, cybercrime and child sexual exploitation. Good news.
Hop on train back to Chelmsford where I am a bit late for the “Blue light” carol service at the Cathedral. This was a really beautiful moment, bringing together frontline officers from the police, fire and ambulance service. Many congratulations to the newly formed ambulance service choir who treat us to a special version of the twelve days of Christmas. I am glad to be able to tell them about the additional police funding. I spend the evening with volunteers discussing policy suggestions to help those with disabilities in many different areas. Lots of good ideas.
Friday Super day in Chelmsford. Starting at Lawford Mead Primary School which has just won an Artsmark award. The pupils show me their beautiful art work and I am treated to performances from the band and the choir. What talent!
At Chelmsford City Council to discuss potential new proposals to help the most vulnerable homeless. Very interesting projects to help the work of CHESS, Sanctus and other organisations and to make it easier for landlords to assist those looking for social housing.
Into the Library for a puppet show celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage and especially focusing on two Essex Suffragettes “The Rock Sisters". Helpful discussion about the Essex County Council consultation into Library services. They are thinking about different ways to deliver library services now that people read hard copies of books less often, if you do use your library and want to keep the services please do take part in the consultation. Into Chelmsford Prison for the annual carol service where I meet some fabulous music students and recent graduates who volunteer to bring music into Prisons. Finish the week with a busy constituency surgery. Thank you so much to everyone who came to meet me – I am sorry if I was a bit rushed this week. It is a very complicated time.