Click HERE to read my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald.
If a week is a long time in politics, then a year is a lifetime and nothing could have prepared me for the rollercoaster ride that being a Member of Parliament really is. It is simply like no other job. The experience is both empowering and humbling. My aim? To stand up for the people of Chippenham constituency and create opportunities for all and focus on now and the long term of our community long after me.
Every day brings a new opportunity, a new challenge, a new frustration, but overall I get a sense of privilege and as I said at 4am on General Election night, I am truly humbled – it is the greatest honour of my life.
The job of an MP has many challenges, not least trying to navigate the Palace of Westminster and as a backbench MP it can be a frustrating experience trying to get things done. There have been some difficult and challenging times, not least the debate and vote around extending air strikes from Iraq into Syria.
I am proud of helping to obtain a commitment to a full review of fairer funding for our schools, which will be a boost to Wiltshire schools’ funding, which have been unfairly underfunded for too long, abolishing business rates for most shops in our town centres to help support our high streets, and the big rise in the minimum wage, whilst taking even more people out of income tax altogether.
Improving education is my passion to provide all with the best start in life. So, as well as being elected onto the Education Select Committee, my personal highlight was the debate I held to try and persuade the Government to look at including Design and Technology in the English Baccalaureate.
It’s a big ask but I am amassing significant cross-party backing in Parliament and weighty business support, not least from Wiltshire’s Dyson and other local businesses.
I am confident that if we persist, we might just succeed.
I am determined to address the local skills gap that employers tell me is a long-term concern each week. I am thinking of the long term of our area and will continue to work hard to ensure that we do not just become a hub for commuters but instead that we protect and encourage our vibrant communities.
Locally, I opened a town centre office in Chippenham. I try to visit at least one business each week and am making good progress at visiting every local school. I still support local charities and volunteer in our community. I hold surgeries in offices and in accessible places like supermarkets as well as house visits.
Long-running campaigns have progressed. The campaign to re-open Corsham station has advanced more than ever before and I am confident that we will be successful before 2020. Traffic in Bradford on Avon continues to be a significant issue, but again, we are making progress in finding a workable solution.
I am proud of my first 12 months, but all too aware of the significant work ahead. The EU referendum will undoubtedly make for another interesting year in Parliament!