Michele Donelan MP

In early May the Civic Society invited local MP for the Chippenham constituency to talk about her impressions and reactions about having been an MP for a year. Although she spoke of some of her campaigns which aim to “benefit the local area”, she maintained this was “not a party political broadcast”.

She began her address celebrating the Civic Society as “integral” to the community and thanked us for such an opportunity to speak so candidly with her electorate. The change from average person to MP was “life transforming”, “dreamlike”, “surreal” and left her “gobsmacked”. Apparently, a satchel was given to her upon entering Parliament and she was treated as a child, but considering the bickering among both parties lately, this is not very difficult to imagine. Considering the size of Parliament, a map would have greatly helped navigate through the centuries-old site and as her office was quite far away, she would have to be very quick in order to not be late for a vote. During her first PMQs, she described her “legs wobbled and knees shook” as she asked her first question, though since she has had three more. These 30 seconds or so each time was described as crucial, and of most value to a politicians time as a backbench MP is able to raise significant local issues to the highest authority.

Michele Donelan with Chancellor Philip Hammond

Michele Donelan with Chancellor Philip Hammond

The most frustrating moments came when she would not get picked to speak for debates, like the one concerning assisted dying, despite vying for attention the whole time. Having come from a business background, the whipping process was highly procedural and there was a steep learning curve to be overcome. To achieve her goals and local plan, which can be found on her website, she would first have to attend regular surgeries and house visits to see what was ailing the community, and then spend Monday – Thursday in London medicating it. Her plan includes opening the Corsham station; a common promise and one which her predecessor could not commit to, boosting the campaign concerning the MOD and restoring the declining High Street.

After her speech, a quick Q&A found out the highlights of her time as an MP was being elected, taking the oath of allegiance in Parliament and being successful in providing more funding for Wiltshire schools. The low points came when she would have to make tough decisions, but found them rewarding nonetheless. There was confusion when the election of the local police commissioner was raised, mainly as to what they stood for and why they needed to be represented by a political party at all. Although she was for remaining in the EU, she believed we would survive outside and has recently supported Theresa May to achieve this as the next Prime Minister.

Jujhar Garcha

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