Commons Diary: Theo Clarke
Electing a new Speaker, a Queen’s Speech, backing Brexit and finding her feet around the Palace of Westminster, Theo Clarke has had a whirlwind start to her parliamentary career
General elections are long and hard-fought campaigns. After six weeks of door-knocking, like all candidates, I was exhausted. On polling day, 12th December, it rained steadily and was dark by mid-afternoon, but my team was committed to spreading our Conservative message.
I was delighted to be elected around 3am at the Stafford Leisure Centre. I thanked my predecessor and supporters, did interviews with local press and finally collapsed into bed before dawn. By 7am the telephone at my association office had already started ringing with casework from constituents. I had to explain that I had yet to hire any staff or open an office!
It was a historic first week to be a Member of Parliament. On the Sunday I took the train down from the constituency for my induction. The process was brilliantly organised by the fantastic House staff. When I collected my locker key and laptop it reminded me of school. I managed to get lost several times in the endless corridors. One of the doorkeepers helpfully pointed out that the carpets change colour from green to red, so at least now I know if I am in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
Setting up an MP’s office is similar to launching a start-up. Luckily my background as an entrepreneur meant that I knew how to go about building a team from scratch and I quickly started interviewing staff who had worked for other colleagues.
They say that a week is a long time in politics, and this couldn’t be more true. On my first day in the Chamber I voted for the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Later that week I was in awe of Her Majesty delivering the Queen’s Speech. I snuck in behind the Cabinet as they walked through Central Lobby over to the Lords to watch her set out the Government’s ambitious agenda. And a mere seven days after I was elected, I voted to get Brexit done.
However, I didn’t realise that you have to bag a seat early to sit in the Chamber and get there for Prayers so instead I stood with colleagues at the back to listen to this historic debate. I was delighted when we passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill with a large majority. It was an honour to take part in such a significant moment in British constitutional history and to deliver on the clear result of the EU referendum in Stafford.
Christmas was a brief moment of rest to catch up with family and friends, plus a chance to attend the St Mary’s Church’s beautiful annual carol service back in the constituency. The New Year was spent mainly writing thankyou letters to the many people who supported my campaign.
My first week back in January I have been getting to grips with Parliamentary procedure. I have tabled my first questions and put in for the Private Members Bill ballot. It is a great honour and a privilege to have been chosen by the people of Stafford to represent them and I look forward to giving my maiden speech in the Chamber reflecting their priorities.
I was truly delighted to be elected alongside a record 220 female MPs in this Parliament. Entering the Palace of Westminster for the first time as an MP I was struck by the history of this building and the important role it has played for Britain over the past thousand years. Walking through Westminster Hall I was reminded that beneath my feet was the very broom cupboard where the brave suffragette Emily Wilding Davison hid on the night of the census to ensure it was recorded that a woman’s place is in the House of Commons.
Theo Clarke is Conservative MP for Stafford