Here’s a flavour of my week in Westminster and Wiltshire.
Wednesday 17 June: Welcome 130 Gurkha recruits to Parliament as Chairman of the All-Party Group for the Armed Forces.Nepal badly needs a proper Parliament, and they could do worse than base it on us. PMQs is the usual rabble, which George Osborne handles well, standing in for the EU-touring PM. Climate change and bee lobbyists, and a couple of Opposition Day debates fill up the usual hectic Wednesday.
Thursday 18 June: Ask a question about rural costs and a great meeting with Stanley Johnson (Boris’s Dad, but a highly distinguished environmentalist in his own right) to discuss polar and wildlife matters. (I am Chair of the APPG for the Arctic) Then a briefing on the £6 billion they tell us it will cost to stop the Palace falling down. But do we really want it all brand spanking new? I’d much prefer genteel shabbiness and a huge saving of taxpayers’ money. Chair Westminster Hall debate on Tibet as a member of the Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen. More EU votes mean that I have to miss the Salisbury Cathedral celebration of Magna Carta.
Friday 19 June: To Taunton for a meeting of the Tories’ South West Board, then a sandwich with a BBC West journalist, a recording for Sunday’s Politics Show, drinks with the North Wiltshire Patrons’ Club to celebrate our record win, followed by dinner in one of the many grand manor houses in my patch. How lucky I am to represent such a wonderful place as North Wiltshire.
Saturday 20 June: No surgeries (I had them on the previous two Saturdays), so attend an Armed Forces event in Corsham instead (North Wiltshire is one of the most military of all constituencies), the Beaufort Puppy Show in the afternoon and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s triumphant ‘thank you’ party in the evening.
Sunday 21 June: A day at home recovering, gardening, snoozing in my hammock and a barbeque with neighbours in the evening. We MPs all deserve a day off every now and again despite pressures from all sides.
Monday 22 June: Meeting with Wiltshire Mental Health en route to London. Two interns and a young man in for coffee to discuss a “career in politics”. I do my best to dissuade him. We need keen young people, but not those who have seen a couple of episodes of the West Wing. Being an MP is a tough and grass-roots sort of job.
Tuesday 23 June: 60 pupils from Box Primary is my third school visit in a week (St Dunstan’s School and Springfields Academy Calne being the other two). I love their great enthusiasm and excitement at such things as the red and green carpets. This building has a huge mystique and grandeur about it. We would wreck that if we turn it into some kind of modern monstrosity. Meeting with the Foreign Office to discuss matters polar. Delivering constituents’ petition on GIST cancer to Number 10. Dinner with the First Sea Lord on board the Cutty Sark. See off thirty MPs to the Defence Academy at Shrivenham as the first part of their Armed Forces Parliamentary training. It will show them every aspect of life in our armed forces. As the Trust’s Chairman, I hope that all MPs will give it a try in future years.