Monday It’s the second week of the votes for the Conservative leadership – the MPs will vote on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to shortlist down to two candidates.
A very positive meeting of the Army and Navy Task Force. The expert from the Department for Transport has come to Chelmsford for the meeting. It is clear that this is being taken very seriously in the Department. Stakeholder meetings have gone well with over 100 suggestions from residents for ways to improve transport. We are shown examples of how elderly flyovers have been replaced in other cities. Options for potential long-term solutions are being developed for the Task Force to consider at its next meeting.
In Westminster I meet a campaigner who talks to me about “cyberflashing”. This is the sending of pictures of sexual images, usually targeting young women and especially using the “Airdrop” function. This is particularly intimidating as the recipient knows that the “flasher” is nearby but cannot identify them. Flashing in the off-line world is a crime, and victims have a right to anonymity but the same is not the case for on-line flashing. Some countries have already changed their laws. I promise to help the campaign for better laws in the UK.
In the House of Commons, I ask the Housing Ministers for an update on our Housing Infrastructure Fund bid for the second railway station. They tell me they are reviewing the bid and we will hear a result “shortly”. I help the Foreign Office minsters answering urgent questions about the bombing of takers in the Gulf. It is an enormously serious situation with very high tension between the USA and Iran. The minister speaks about the need to de-escalate.
I lost my father when I was ten years old. He was electrocuted due to faulty extension leads at home. Therefore, I care deeply about consumer safety. I’m pleased to be in the Commons when the minister comes to announce the recall of certain “whirlpool” tumble drivers which have been causing fires. I’ve been pressing for this for many months. If you have a tumble dryer do please check the whirlpool website to see if it’s one of those affected.
Tuesday In the Commons I ask Health Ministers to look at the tax situation for senior doctors. A bizarre situation has arisen which means if they work extra hours to help with waiting lists they face a tax bill for more than they have earned. This is affecting some Chelmsford based doctors. The ministers promise to look at this again. I ask ministers for more clarity on issues affecting EU citizens in the UK, especially for those who are carers and are not working. I take part in a debate on harassment in Parliament, this does need to be addressed as it is putting people off standing for election and affecting staff.
We have another round of voting for the Conservative leadership. There are rumours that MPs have been bullied into voting for certain candidates and are being forced to take photographs of their ballot papers to “prove” which way they voted. We are all asked to hand in our phones before voting. When the votes are counted Dominic Rabb drops out, leaving just 5 candidates.
In the Commons when all the other MPs have left I join a group from across the country to deliver our petitions. Nearly 300 people signed the petition in Chelmsford and I am hugely grateful. We are campaigning to back Britain’s bid to host the next Global Conference on Climate Change.
In the evening I join other supporters of Jeremy Hunt to watch the BBC TV hustings. It is very frenetic with lots of candidates speaking at the same time. But Hunt, Gove and Javid do well.
Wednesday Off to the BBC studios to get quizzed by Victoria Derbyshire on the leadership race before rushing back to join colleagues discussing a new “breathing space” scheme. This will help people facing debts that they cannot repay. I have been lobbying of this for two years, so I am very pleased that it is being introduced. It will especially help families.
After Prime Ministers Questions I meet up with two blind residents from Chelmsford and their guide dogs. We discuss how to make sure accessibility is improved for them. In Chelmsford our taxi drivers are all given special training to help those with disabilities. The Royal National Institute of Blind People would like this to be introduced across the UK.
I meet the boss of Teledyne e2v who is in Westminster. The company is doing really exciting work developing new industrial components that use quantum technology. I join campaigners for the “Refill” scheme. This makes it easier to use refillable water bottles, not single use plastic ones. Do download their Refill App to see where the nearest places to fill up your water bottle are.
Another round of voting for the leadership, this time Rory Stewart drops out. He has been very popular, especially with younger voters.
Thursday Day of the final MP leadership ballots. I wake early and start the day with a very early haircut – I’ve been needing one for weeks but it’s been too busy. I am in the House of Commons by 9am, the mood amongst Conservative MPs is tense. We know that the votes are going to be very close, every vote matters. The first vote is at 10am-12pm and the second at 3pm-5pm. There will be very little time between votes. I meet the group supporting Jeremy Hunt, we expect Sajid Javid will probably drop out after this morning’s vote, so where his supporters votes go will be crucial. We discuss each of his voters and decide who is going to approach whom.
In the House of Commons chamber business continues with questions to the Secretary of State for Digital, Media and Sport. There has been a bureaucratic mix up in the department which means new rules for age verification of pornography will be delayed for 6 months. This is really unfortunate, but I use the opportunity to ask the ministers to look at “cyber-flashing”.
At 1pm the results of the first ballot are announced. Sajid Javid has dropped, but for the first time Michael Gove is ahead of Hunt. There is shock and silence in Jeremy’s office. We go through the names again, every voting MP will be contacted again. It is tense in the committee corridor outside the voting room for the final ballot. It’s going to be close.
I agree to go take part in Sky News programme during the results. When the announcements come out I am so delighted that Jeremy Hunt is through to the final two. Since I was asked to become the Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Foreign Office Ministers I’ve been supporting their work. I have seen Jeremy to be a very deep thinker, a good listener who is trusted and gets things done. There were just two votes between Gove and Hunt. 160 MPs voted for Boris Johnson but 152 voted for the other candidates. The next stage of the members could be closer than expected.
Friday Busy day in Chelmsford including a helpful roundtable with local businesses discussing infrastructure priorities, tax policies, and a packed constituency surgery. I spent a lovely hour meeting mums, dads and pre-schoolers at the Family Social Event in Oaklands Park. This was organised by the super local resident Kim Gisby as part of Loneliness Awareness Week. Lovely cup of tea and deep chat with the team from “Realise Futures”, this is a local not for profit organisation which helps people with challenging disabilities into work and then supports them. If you are looking for staff and think you might be able to help do get in touch.
Saturday Birmingham is where I first stood for election back in 2005. I head back there to attend the first of the member’s leadership hustings. I join Jeremy’s team at local Balti restaurant meeting Young Conservatives. He discusses his plans to cut the interest rates on student debt. This is very popular. It’s very inspiring to be in the hustings event and hear members asking detailed questions of both the candidates. The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.