The Eight Minute Mile – by Peter Bone MP

portrait-bone1.jpg8.15am: Arrive Palace of Westminster. First duty: Go to corridor where cash machines and disposable tights dispenser are. Stop next to the paracetamol vendor, punch in various letters and numbers, stick in credit card and obtain congestion card ticket. No discounts for bio-fuel cars!

Phone call from some strange alien being. Turns out to be my PA who has lost her voice and can’t come in. Disaster. Got to do it all myself. My excellent Parliamentary Assistant normally deals with most of my thousand emails, phone calls and letters which come in each week. I contemplate dealing with the deluge on my own but luckily a knight in shining armour comes to my rescue. The youngest Conservative Councillor in England, Thomas Pursglove is visiting and offers to help out. He is chained to the office desk until 6.15pm and we cope with most constituency problems.

Next to the Table Office. I am putting in five Parliamentary Questions relating to the Department of Work and Pensions, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Northern Ireland. This highly skilled group of professionals live in a little cubby hole behind Mr Speaker’s Chair. Their job is to check that questions are in order and can be fired at the Minister. To my amazement all five questions are accepted without query.

Time running by, a quick cup of coffee and cheese and biscuits and it’s time for prayers. Every daily session of Parliament opens with prayers in the chamber. I am pleased to say we still use the proper version of the Lord’s Prayer. No modern stuff there.

Then to Questions to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. One of the most important parts of the Parliamentary day where the Secretary of State has to answer questions from Members of Parliament. Today boring and uninformative, Secretary of State Balls gives long winded detailed answers which bear no relationship to the questions asked.

Then to a statement on the bugging of an MP’s telephone conversation. Delivered by one of the Government’s best performers Lord Chancellor Jack Straw. Statements are made on urgent matters of national importance and gives MPs the chance to quiz the Minister on whatever crisis they are dealing with. Jack Straw as usual answers with good humour and in detail but I notice he totally dodges my question on how many MPs have been bugged.

6:15: Time to be at 1 Whitehall Place, National Liberal Club where the Conservative Party is awarding its Excellence Awards. I know we’re keen on catching Liberal votes but occupying their building seems like taking things too far.

My Blackberry buzzes to tell me that there will be no more votes in the House of Commons tonight. Great, can settle down to nice evening with constituents. Just meeting with David Cameron, Blackberry goes off again: Vote now, sorry we got previous message wrong. David Cameron says: ‘Hello Peter’. I cut him off and as I run past shouting ‘Got to vote now!’

Whitehall Place is a mile from the Palace of Westminster. MPs have eight minutes to vote in a division. Now, I am more of a marathon runner than a sprinter. But if you saw a group dressed in suits running down the Embankment, I would have been one of them. Flying through the gates at Westminster, a policeman cheerfully shouts: ‘Do you know a division is going on Mr Bone?’ Too out of breath to reply I get into the Division Lobby just before the doors are locked. Unfortunately all the effort was in vain. We still lost the division by a mile.

10.20pm: In the Chamber to support the redoubtable Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour Member for Crewe and Nantwich. Together we both object to a Government guillotine on European Scrutiny. It only delays for 24 hours the Government’s reduction in the time for democratic debate. But we make our point.

And so to bed.


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