Like everyone else the main difficulty in December is to balance the vast array of Christmas social occasions against a workload that is compressed into a short month. By the time Christmas came this year I was very ready for a quiet time away from London.
Week beginning 1 December: This was the first full week of the new session of parliament and there was much organisation and allocation of team responsibilities for the legislation ahead. As the Opposition Whip responsible for Local & Devolved Government Affairs it was important that I clarified the future important debates on Housing and Fire & Rescue Services which are my prime responsibility for early in the New Year. My week involved an endless stream of meetings alongside my duties on the front bench in the chamber of the House of Commons overseeing debates with the local regions team. Beside the activities in the House there were many constituency functions to attend including our Association’s Patrons Club lunch where I spoke on international affairs and events in Pimlico, Lancaster Gate, Knightsbridge and Belgravia. Added to that was the meeting of Greater London Conservative Women’s and the lovely Christmas Fair at St Peter’s Primary School in Lower Belgrave Street. It was also a busy week for me amongst the financial community with events including the CBI Annual Dinner, the Annual Dinner for the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks, and the Forces Pension Society Luncheon.
Week beginning 8 December: Constituents have a number of Christmas events and this week I found myself not only attending but making speeches at functions on every evening. From the King’s College London Conservative Association event through to separate constituency occasions with the Hyde Park, Marylebone and St James’s Wards where many people wanted to hear more about my role as Shadow Minister for London. I was also pleased to be invited this week to the League of Friends Christmas dinner, the London First Reception for Chinese Business and on Friday I was Guest of Honour at the Tooting Conservatives Christmas event for another speech and question/answer session.
Week beginning 15 December: This was the week when Parliamentary and constituency Christmas receptions featured every day and every evening. Some of the ones that I attended included receptions with the BBC and Capital Radio, celebratory parties with the Royal Parks Association and a Christmas lunch with the City of London club. The highlight undoubtedly would have been The Story of Christmas pageant at St George’s Hanover Square and the delightful reception afterwards. However for the second year running I was unable to attend as there was a late vote in the House of Commons. Despite all the social activity much was also achieved in the House with a strong debate about the newly planned regional assemblies and my speaking in the important debate about Police Funding in London.
Week beginning 29th December: The year ended with me accompanying Tim Yeo, Shadow Minister for Health & Education, on a cold, wet and windy fact-finding tour of St Mary’s Hospital and its proposed expansion into Paddington Basin. We also had a chance to meet the Chief Executive and Chairman of the local NHS Trust and discuss funding and the issue of NHS Tourism.
All of this political work was the sharpest possible antidote to the previous week’s warm log fires in a house on Dartmoor where my wife, parents-in-law and I had spent Christmas.