Monday, 20 May Week starts at the Department of Education to meet the Schools Minister. I am leading a delegation of Essex MPs who are concerned. In the aftermath of the last financial crisis the vast amount of school funding was protected from cuts, but not all. Now there is going to be a full “Spending Review” that looks at all departments. We would like to see fairer funding for our Essex schools, especially in areas such as Special Educational Needs and for the over 16s.
A Chelmsford resident has asked me to support the campaign to protect hedgehogs, so I have a call with the lead campaigner. Over 500,000 people have signed his petition for “wildlife corridors” to be created in new housing developments.
The UK is bidding to host the next Global Conference on Climate Change in 2020. It will be vital for our planet’s future. I meet a group of MPs who want to get some more support to back Britain’s bid. We agree to launch petitions in our constituencies which can be presented to Parliament and Downing Street.
In the House of Commons, I have been drawn for a Bill Committee to make technical changes so that the Brexit date is changed to end October as this is what was agreed by the other 27 European countries. Lots of colleagues are very frustrated by the uncertainty – as am I!
In the evening I join colleagues to launch a new “One Nation Conservatives”. This is a group of around 60 colleagues who have set out ten core values. These include protecting our environment, supporting our public services, taking international leadership as well as defending free enterprise, security and a strong economy. It’s been good to work on issues that are not all about Brexit!
Tuesday, 21 May Very early start breakfast meeting with campaigners for the environment and international development on issues addressing plastic waste in developing countries. During the “Give Up Plastic for Lent” campaign I helped promote the work of the charity Tearfund. They tell the group it raised a massive raised £3 million. Wow! The fund raising has also been match funded by the Government. As a result, they are now starting waste recycling projects in Nigeria, Haiti and Pakistan. In the Science and Technology Select Committee we go through the first drafts of our report on the UK meeting its emissions reduction targets to beat climate change.
In the House of Commons I ask treasury ministers for more investment in infrastructure and help sponsor a new bill to protect women from being made redundant when they are pregnant or on maternity leave. The Prime Minister makes a speech proposing another round of votes on Brexit, including offering MPs a vote on whether to have a customs union and a second referendum. It’s clear that many MPs are deeply concerned. It is very late when I get back to Chelmsford.
Wednesday, 22 May To New London Road and BBC Radio Essex for an early radio interview. I am a hugely loyal person and Theresa May has worked tirelessly to try to deliver a Brexit deal, but the uncertainty cannot continue, I say we need a fresh pair of eyes. In Westminster during Prime Minister’s Questions the mood is angry. The Prime Minister takes questions about her latest suggestion for Brexit votes, there are very few supporters. I explain that I believe this current situation cannot go on, we cannot continue to put the country under such uncertainty and that MPs need to stop saying “No” to everything that is put on the table just because it does not include our personal favourite dish.
Thursday, 23 May I walk through Chelmsford and along the river to the Essex Record Office to vote for the European Elections. It is beautiful.
In the House of Commons I help the Foreign Office Ministers prepare for a debate on Yemen. It is the most hideous war, tens of thousands of children are dying from malnutrition and disease. The UK is leading the international effort to bring about a cease fire, and some rebel troops have now pulled back from key ports. Our international aid of food and medicines is making some difference but it is very, very difficult. As I sit and listen to the speeches I think about how lucky we are in Britain. I meet some of those who are going stand to be next leader of the Conservative Party. There are going to be lots of contenders. I want to hear their plans for the future. On the way back to Chelmsford I stop in the “Temple” area of London behind the law courts. Here the 71st Yeomanry Signal Regiment are having their annual reception. This is an army reserve regiment that specialises in managing communications, and there is a unit based in Chelmsford. It is fascinating to hear what they do.
Friday, 24 May I’ve booked to take a very rare day off. I have promised myself a day with no phone, no emails and just a fishing rod. The news that Theresa May has stepped down as the Prime Minster makes its way along the river bank. She has been a massive supporter of encouraging women in Parliament for more than a decade. Ten years ago, when I first became MEP for the East of England, there wasn’t a single Conservative woman MP east of the M11. It was very lonely! But there are now 10 of us and I am personally deeply grateful to her for driving this change. Whoever picks up the reins will have a huge challenge ahead getting agreement on Brexit as well as the many other issues that need our focus.