The month of March saw me being asked by Michael Howard to concentrate on my role as Shadow Minister for London in the period leading up to the June 10 elections. I relinquished my role in the Opposition Whips office with some sorrow as I had thoroughly enjoyed the last nine months as a Whip and had learned a great deal about the workings of Parliament.
My diary commitments changed a great deal because I was no longer involved in day-to-day activities in the chamber as an Opposition Whip. This gave me a chance to catch up and meet with a number of the newly selected parliamentary candidates in the London area and to take up more speaking engagements in Greater London and the suburbs. These included events in Brent, Kingston and Orpington.
In my constituency the month of March showed once again the efforts put in by the various Wards for fund-raising and political meetings. I attended dinners and other events in Knightsbridge & Belgravia Ward; the Marylebone High Street Ward the Bryanston & Dorset Square Ward as well as a joint political event with the Bryanston and City of London Wards.
Universities featured strongly in my month as well. Not only was the important debate on tuition fees continuing in the House but I was a guest at the University College of London dinner and the City University’s Chancellor’s dinner as well as being asked to address the Conservative Group at Imperial College. As an Oxford graduate the month did not end on a high note with my standing on Thames towpath watching Cambridge speed home in the Boat Race.
The City of London also held its fair share of events at which I was invited to speak this month including the Drapers Company Livery Dinner and a meeting with the British Venture Capital Association. One important dinner within the constituency which I could enjoy without having to speak was the Annual Civic reception of Westminster City Council.
Looking back at the number of weekday events I attended during March I was able to show many of the newly selected London parliamentary candidates that life as a London MP can mean that enjoying a non-political social life during the week is extremely difficult. My other piece of advice that I am able to give now is to make sure that the men have more than one dinner suit but I have stayed well clear of offering any dress advice to the ten women already selected as parliamentary candidates for the London seats. We men certainly have it easy, being able to wear the same outfits week after week without creating any comment – I fear that is less true for ladies in the public gaze.