A week in the life of Vicky Ford MP

Monday, 22 July  Massively busy start to the week.  The Iranians have seized a British oil tanker in the Gulf and the Foreign Secretary (still Jeremy Hunt at this stage) is to make a statement to MPs.  I rush with advisors, agreeing suggested questions for colleagues to ask and briefing them.  

Before parliament starts I meet with the head of Water UK on their “Refill” scheme to reduce plastic bottles and discuss plans for next year’s celebration of 100 years of radio with representatives from the commercial radio sector.  This is an important celebration for Chelmsford.

In the House of Commons, the mood is serious for the Iran statement. We learn that ship owners had been asked to give the Royal Navy 24 hours’ notice of movements through the Gulf but the captured vessel had only given one hours’ notice, not enough time for a naval ship to get to the scene.   Afterwards I go to the garden at 10 Downing street where Theresa May hosts a final reception for MPs.   It’s a quiet evening in the House of Commons, as all are focused on tomorrow’s results of the Conservative Party leadership election.  I listen to a debate on preservation of rivers.  I love rivers and am looking forward to canoeing down the Chelmer with the Chelmsford Canoe Club this summer.  However, the ecology of many rivers is struggling in this dry weather.    Steps 8648

Tuesday, 23 July  The MPs who supported Jeremy Hunt’s campaign walk across Parliament Square to where the election results will be announced.  The hall is packed, and the atmosphere is buzzing.   Boris Johnson wins with 2/3 of the votes, a strong mandate.  When the campaign started Hunt was only predicted to get less than 1/5 of the vote so he has also done very well. I join Jeremy’s team for lunch to say thank you to the volunteers before returning to the House of Commons for a packed meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs.  Boris Johnson addresses the room as the new Prime Minster.  There is huge energy in the room, a strong call for party unity.  The first ministerial announcement is making Mark Spencer MP the Chief Whip.  I’ve worked closely with Mark for the past year. He is well regarded and liked. Late home as the trains are delayed. Steps 16,203

Wednesday, 24 July  Early morning and already hot.  I show Chelmsford resident Laura Bull around Parliament.  She has diabetes and has gathered a petition of over 23,000 signatures asking for better mental health support for people with diabetes.  What a brave young lady.

I go to the Foreign Office to thank the team and have a photo taken with Jeremy Hunt in the stunning office of the Foreign Secretary.  He has been offered the Defence Secretary job but does not want to take this from Penny Mourdant who is well regarded in this role.

It’s Theresa May’s last PMQs, as a female MP I do find it very sad to see her go as she has been a great inspiration to many women in politics. Tributes on her work on tackling modern day slavery and caring for mental health come from across the House, but not from Jeremy Corbyn.

Again, the Commons is eerily quiet.  MPs are in their offices listening to Theresa May’s final speech and then watching Boris Johnson arrive at number 10.   News starts to break about the new cabinet, and many, many ministers are being replaced.  It’s too hot to travel home in the rush hour so I go to the Commons Terrace.  Many colleagues are shocked.  I am pleased to see Essex MPs in the new cabinet though, including James Cleverly as Party Chairman.  Late, late home as the trains are delayed again.  Steps 10,876

Thursday, 25 July Hot, hot, hot even on the very early train to Westminster.  I’ve been drawn to ask the first question of the new Environment Secretary.  I ask about single use plastics and mention the pupils from Bishops Primary and Kings Road Primary who have asked me what more they can do to reduce plastic waste.  I’ve prepared a “Guide to Going Green” which is full of tips, but I am also looking for more.

Jacob Rees Mogg is now “Leader of the House”. He has to answer “Business Questions” when MPs can ask questions on any topic.  He is very well briefed and articulate.  Members clearly enjoy listening.  I ask him to look at the online harassment and abuse which politicians get, especially women and those from certain ethnic groups – it’s putting people off standing for election.  He agrees to take this up. 

The House is packed when Boris Johnson arrives, he gives a speech on his priorities and then takes questions.  Two hours later the new PM is still firing out the answers, Jeremy Corbyn looks like he is melting.  I ask him about the 20,000 extra police and will Essex get our fair share.  He names our Essex Police Commissioner Roger Hirst and says the Home Secretary, Essex MP Priti Patel, will work on it straight away.

End of term atmosphere in the House as MPs depart for summer recess.  I am joined by a group from Chelmsford for a tour of behind the scenes, its lovely to be able to show them round.

On the way home I hear the bad news that there has been a problem at the Army and Navy Flyover.  I call Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, work on delivering the long term replacement must be accelerated.  Steps 9,999

Friday, 26 July I text the new Secretary of State for Transport and warn him about the flyover.  It has been closed indefinitely and this will be dreadful for such a critical piece of infrastructure. He agrees and I prepare a long letter explaining the situation.  We have a very, very busy constituency surgery.

I go to meet engineers at the flyover.  They explain how the extreme hot weather yesterday meant that the metal expanded and because it is built on a curve this has pressed the flyover outwards. Therefore, one of the supports has moved on its plinth. This is not the same support as the one that moved last year and was subsequently repaired. Engineers will now need to excavate underneath the supports to see whether the footings are still stable and make recommendations as to whether or not the flyover can be repaired again. This inspection will take at least a fortnight.

I spend the afternoon explaining the situation to TV cameras and local radio.   I also explain the progress we are making on the long term solution with the Army and Navy Taskforce.  Eight potential solutions have been shortlisted and engineers are drawing up the detailed plans and traffic assessments.

Lovely evening at Chelmsford Cricket Ground watching the England Ladies team take on the Australians.  There is a great atmosphere but sadly the Aussies are full of spirit and wack up a massive 226 runs which our team can just not better.  Steps 5,787

Saturday, 27 July  It is pouring with rain– which is great for the river, but I defer my first Chelmer canoeing trip until next week!