A First Week to Remember
Last Monday started off just like any other normal back-to-Parliament week for a backbencher. Then the phone rang. Even with reshuffle chatter bubbling away in the background, any MP might hope, but certainly not expect it to be the Prime Minister. With that I was a Local Government Minister at the Department for Communities. Surprised, yes. A privilege, certainly. A new challenge, definitely. But I am ready and eager to roll my sleeves up and get on with the job of governing.
So instead of deciding which debates to attend and thinking about select committee work I was off to join Eric Pickles at our Victoria HQ. So far, so good.
I have always been an avid Olympics and Paralympics fan and I am keen to see the sporting spirit that swept the nation this summer continue. So I was thrilled that one my first duties as a new minister was to attend the Olympic cabinet committee, chaired by the Prime Minister (I seem to be seeing a lot of him lately!). We discussed the huge contribution made by team GB, not just the athletes, but also the organisers and games makers that made sure 2012 went off without a hitch. We talked about the plans for the closing ceremony and parade which, I think we can all agree was truly great way to cap off a stellar sporting summer. Not to mention Andy Murray’s first grand slam victory.
Day two meant the Government’s big announcement to boost the economy, deliver 70,000 new homes and create 140,000 jobs through billions in debt guarantees, new housing investment and more planning deregulation. The plans were announced by Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, but Eric and our team of ministers all took to the front benches to set out the steps to Parliament that build on the housing, local government finance and planning reforms already in play. Getting growth going is a top priority for the Coalition and this package is something the chamber will no doubt welcome as a key contribution to that.
With any new job the first week is often about learning the ropes. So I’ve been settling into my new offices, learning my way around the building, meeting with my new ministerial colleagues to discuss our priorities and responsibilities. I also have a new private office team and daily tasks like correspondence, responding to parliamentary questions, reading my briefing notes or meetings with the civil servants to get up to speed on various aspects of my portfolio, which covers local government, the Fire Service, the Thames Gateway and community pubs.
Talk about hitting the ground running, which is ironic given that my new role has given me less time to train up for the triathlon I’m competing in. The weekend will hopefully mean I can catch my breath, get in some training and spend time with the family. Although I’ll have my ministerial box to get through and my first ever departmental questions on Monday to prepare for, so fingers crossed.