Monday Massively long day. The PM may be flying back to Strasbourg to continue Brexit negotiations and if she does go there will need to be a statement in the House of Commons tonight. This means a huge number of items are added to the agenda which will keep Parliament sitting until very late. I ask the Education Minister for an update on girls studying engineering and the Home Secretary about work to prevent people becoming radicalized by terrorist networks. I help support the Foreign Office Team taking questions about Syria and then speak in the debate in favour of new, stronger laws against FGM. The law passes unanimously, good.
Its 10pm when the Brexit Secretary comes to update MPs. There have been changes to the controversial Backstop, but will they be enough? Steps: 9,131
Tuesday Day of the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement (again). Start the day at the Bank of England, meeting an old contact and former British Ambassador to the EU. It was very helpful to hear his thoughts on the long term options for the UK’s relationship with the EU.
I write a long open letter to constituents on the current situation. An emergency meeting with the Prime Minister is called, she warns us of the risks if the vote falls. The Attorney General comes to update MPs on his views on the changes. Very tense, it is clear that some colleagues are not convinced. The Withdrawal Agreement is not perfect but key parts of it are vital for businesses that trade with Europe, and for those with relatives from or in the EU. We keep debating and discussing it for hours whilst talks with MPs continue trying to persuade them to support the deal. I vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, but it does not carry. Steps: 13,447
Wednesday Another tense day. This time we have to decide whether or not to support an extension to the Brexit process. But first the Chancellor comes to give his “Spring Statement” on the economy. I am very pleased to hear about more support for new social housing, for science and technology and for extra funds to help the police tackle knife crime. He also announces that all secondary schools will now have free sanitary products to prevent girls missing school due to period poverty (thank you to Chelmsford Girl Guides for campaigning on this). I would have liked to hear of more funding for schools and social care but the Chancellor explains he cannot give this because of the economic uncertainty we would have in a no deal Brexit. Michael Gove the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who was also a leader of the Leave campaign also gives a long speech about the risks of no deal. It seems to me to be best to look for a short extension to see if an acceptable deal can be agreed. I want to vote for the motion by the Prime Minister which rules out a no-deal exit on 29 March. I vote against the amendment which asked MPs to rule out a no-deal Brexit at any time – but that amendment passes by a very small majority. This means that the final vote is between a “no deal” exit at the end of March or a potentially very long extension. I do not want either of these. Therefore, I and many colleagues chose to abstain, indicating that we are prepared to have an extension because we do want a deal, but we do not want a long extension. Steps: 12,440
Thursday After last night’s tensions I take the chance to stop off at Chelmsford Cathedral for morning prayer before heading off to Westminster. It is a precious time to stop and reflect. In the House of Commons tempers are really high. There are lots of votes planned for the evening as everyone seems to have a different view on the best way forward. I receive many emails from Chelmsford residents asking me to support a second referendum, but I don’t think this is the best way forward. It risks being even more divisive and not decisive. I decide to vote against a second referendum. I also have lots of emails asking not to have a delay to Brexit, and others begging me to delay it. On top of it all I feel awful and clearly have a bug brewing. A motion tries to take control away from the government, this falls by just two votes. I scrape through the votes without throwing up (just), my lovely doctor colleague fills me with painkillers and a long lie down before a late train back to Chelmsford. Steps: 7,564
Friday Wake up to awful news of the massacre in two mosques in New Zealand, just dreadful. I also have a tummy bug. Pop into Chelmsford City Council for their catch up with local MPs, we discuss the bid for the second railway station and new bypass which are going in next week. They outline the contributions that developers are making to infrastructure across Chelmsford when new homes or offices are built. I am pleased to hear that the Riverside development is nearly complete. Late afternoon feeling a bit better. Head off to Beeches Road where I meet residents to discuss some housing challenges. Many of those I meet are caring for relatives with disabilities. I am deeply impressed by this community. Steps: 4,741
Saturday Lovely morning with volunteers for a “Help the High Street” campaign. The government has cut business rates and changed planning laws to help High Streets, but we need to encourage people to support our local shops and cafés. It is really good to talk about something that is not Brexit! I drop to visit members of the local Muslim community at their Saturday school which teaches Arabic. They have clearly been deeply traumatised by the events in New Zealand. There must be no place in our community for terrorism and religious hatred. I bring messages of reassurance and support, I hope it helps. At Admirals Park I join the Hindu community who are celebrating the “Holi” festival of colour. I am covered with paint and goodwill, so uplifting! Quick shower before meeting our Police and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst. He is keen to help knock on doors and listen to what people are saying. We meet at Linnet Drive and join local volunteer Jane Edwards who has been helping the hardworking Cllr Anthony McQuiggan whilst he recovers from a broken knee cap (ouch). Lots of positive messages about Chelmsford, many people are pleased to hear about the infrastructure investment bid too.