For me February was dominated by the Housing Bill. As the Opposition Whip on this legislation my role is to negotiate, with my opposite number on the Government side, the passage of the Bill. The Standing Committee involves a line-by-line examination of the draft bill, preparing amendments often with the help of outside bodies including (in my case) Westminster City Council. This is more interesting than it sounds and certainly my training immediately after graduation as a lawyer has come in handy!
The month saw me attending five-hour sessions on the Standing Committee for the Housing Bill every Tuesday and Thursday. Other Standing Committees on which I sat as an Opposition whip this month included Delegated Legislation (Draft Terrorism Act 2000) and the Northern Ireland Grand Committee.
But the month was certainly not all work with a myriad of events for me at which I didn’t have to speak – Conservative Winter Ball at the Meridien Hotel in Park Lane; The London Conservative Dinner at Carlton Tower Hotel in Cadogan Place where Michael Howard was guest of honour; and the terrific Chinese New Year Party in Westminster.
There were some other events where I had to "sing for my supper" including dinner at Hammersmith & Fulham Patrons Club; the Political Society at Dulwich College but maybe the most important event for me was the 90th birthday party for Lady Thorneycroft, the wife of the late Lord Thorneycroft, best known as a long-time Chairman of the Conservative Party and former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Large numbers of past and present senior Tories from the last forty years were delightfully in evidence including Lady Thatcher and I was privileged to give the vote of thanks to John Major who gave a truly heartening speech.
As a member of the All Party Football Group for the last year it was most enjoyable to attend the launch of our report which was well received by the football world in general and given extensive coverage by the media. The report launch was followed immediately by a long-arranged lunch with the German Ambassador and it was no surprise that football was one of the subjects we discussed alongside the political situation in Europe.
Constituency events again proved how energetic are the people in the Cities of London and Westminster. The AGM of our West End Ward was held in the salubrious surroundings of The Audley in Mount Street while Tachbrook Ward held a Question Time event in Dolphin Square. This month also saw me attending Bayswater Residents’ Association AGM in St Sophia’s Cathedral and that came on the same day as I had attended the official opening of the wonderful new Crowne Plaza Hotel in the City.
As Shadow Minister for London I am also involved in connecting with many of our new London parliamentary candidates and February saw a increased number being selected, not least Sir Malcolm Rifkind in Kensington & Chelsea. I have seen many of them already for a pep talk here in Westminster in February and they are all very enthusiastic. Sometimes I wonder whether they all realise quite what they are letting themselves in for!