Monday, 10 June It’s bucketing down with rain! I start the week by sidestepping puddles from Whitehall across Horse Guards Parade to the Royal Academy of Engineering for the launch of Jeremy Hunt’s leadership campaign. Having listened to all the top candidates being interviewed last week, I have decided to give Jeremy my vote. We face many serious decisions, we need to resolve Brexit and move on. Time is short, and we need someone who is already respected and trusted on the international stage.
Back in the House of Commons for questions to the Home Secretary. I have been picked for the first question of the day and ask about young people and crime. I would like to see more support for schools, so they can run proactive initiatives to prevent young people being sucked into gangs and crime. The police have been working with schools on this in the Chelmsford area and the feedback has been very positive.
Very helpful meeting with Essex County Council leaders and Mid Essex MPs, particularly focusing on the need to resolve a longer-term funding solution for social care. Interesting meeting with Science and Technology Select Committee on 5G and Huawei, and another on using technology to resolve the Irish border issues with Brexit. Late evening doing TV interview for Newsnight on the leadership.
Tuesday, 11 June Fascinating Select Committee meeting, taking evidence for an inquiry into drones. It’s two years since I was elected as MP for Chelmsford, so I agree to make a short film about the work we’ve done. Lots more leadership hustings to listen to.
In the Commons there is a debate on international development and sustainable development goals. I go to listen and ask questions about dealing with plastic waste in developing counties. We should not be sending our plastic recycling overseas to create toxic waste mountains in poorer countries. Dinner catching up with colleagues and very helpful to speak to the Education Secretary about funding for Schools, especially for the 16 plus age group and for Special Educational Needs.
Wednesday, 12 June Spend the morning in the Women and Equalities Select Committee. We are doing an inquiry into mental health of men and boys, we hear some stark stories from experts and helpful advice from organisations such as the Samaritans. PMQs is quieter than usual – I guess people are more interested in leadership discussions.
The Opposition party have tabled a motion trying to take control of the Parliament agenda away from the Government. It goes to a vote. It fails.
In the House of Commons for a debate on social mobility. I recall how just a decade ago we faced awfully high levels of unemployment, especially for young people, and many people were trapped on benefits. But now we have record levels of employment, especially for women, under 25-year olds and those with disabilities. I ask the minister to look at what more we could do, especially to support women in their 50s and 60s and to improve the benefits assessment process for those with disabilities. I join colleagues who are supporting Jeremy Hunt’s campaign for a final discussion as the first round of votes are tomorrow.
Thursday, 13 June Into Downing Street for a meeting with the Chief Whip and the MPs who are Parliamentary Private Secretaries. This is to ensure that the House of Commons continues to run in a well organised manner during the leadership elections. The leadership ballot first round of voting opens. We take it in turns to check off the colleagues who have voted, as we want to make sure everyone turns up – it’s only a two-hour window for voting.
In the main Chamber there is an Urgent Question about the challenging situation in Sudan and an important Ministerial Statement about Hong Kong, where people are extremely concerned about potential new extradition laws with China. I work with colleagues to juggle the diary, helping the ministers with the questions whilst also keeping on top of numerous press interviews. The votes are counted, and I’m pleased to hear that Jeremy Hunt is running in second place. This is going to be a long process and it is important that two strong candidates go into the final round.
I head to Chelmsford to meet over 100 lawyers, judges and law students. They are doing a sponsored walk to support projects that make sure everyone can access legal advice. The rain has stopped and it’s great to meet them as they set off. I have a lovely evening at the theatre in Chelmsford watching the Springers amateur theatre and drama group perform Grease. Wow! They are superb. The singing and dancing are excellent – as they say, “It’s electrifying”.
Friday, 14 June What a superb day. I join representatives from our NHS, health professionals, tutors, professors and staff from Anglia Ruskin University for the formal opening of our new School of Medicine. The Duke of Kent is the guest of honour; he is accompanied by the Queen’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex Jennifer Tolhurst. I join the tour of the facilities, it’s wonderful to hear from the students themselves. They are clearly loving being in Chelmsford and speak very highly of the course. It is quite unique and involves lots of different placements in local hospitals and GP surgeries.
Then over to Riverside for the official opening of the new swimming pool and other facilities. Goodness what great facilities. The swimming pool is spectacular and the view from the gym is simply beautiful. Even I feel tempted to hop onto those machines for ages looking out over the river!
In the afternoon I join the inspirational Chelmsford resident Mike Adams OBE. His is passionate about encouraging businesses to become more accessible for those with disabilities and last year he lit up high streets all over the country for Purple Tuesday. He is now working with Chelmsford businesses to make our city centre the first in the UK to become fully accessible. There are 11.5 million people with disabilities in the UK, about three quarters of whom have hidden disabilities Becoming more accessible is a win for shops, clubs and restaurants, as well as for those with disabilities, because they benefit from additional customers. My friend Ruth Davidson the Leader of the Scottish Conservatives has flown down from Edinburgh and joins me. It’s good to introduce her to Mike and the Purple team, she’s keen to take some of their ideas back to Scotland too.
Ruth joins me and a group of volunteers for an early evening walkabout in Chelmsford chatting to residents and hearing their views. The week ends with a lovely evening at Pontland’s Hotel for our annual association dinner. Truly delicious food. It is good to hear Ruth tell us some of her stories from Scotland, and to remember that the United Kingdom is much stronger when we are united as all four nations.
Saturday, 15 June The short film about my first two years as MP is ready. I put it on my Facebook page. Thank you so much for so many kind comments of support.