Reshuffles have to be brutal to be effective. I grieve with so many of my friends who have left the Government after many years of hard labour before the mast. Nothing hurts more than being made redundant.
Was it my fault? What did I do wrong? What does the future hold? They have my great sympathy. Yet Mr Cameron has brought in a dynamic group of fresh young (and female) faces who will be the front window of the Conservative Party in the run-up to next year’s General Election, and then to bring some new thinking to the Government we would hope to form after that. Sackings are a tough job, but these things have to be done.
And there is more to life than being a Minister of the Crown – as I can attest to. There are all kinds of Parliamentary roles of interest and worth. I enjoy my modest expertise on defence matters; my membership of the Defence Select Committee, and chairmanship of the two main Armed Forces groups in Parliament. I enjoy being one of the Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen, and my role on the Procedure Committee of the House. I try to be as active as I can from the backbenches.
I greatly enjoy speaking out for North Wiltshire, or on issues about which I feel strongly unhampered by ministerial ambitions. For example, it was touch and go, but I will be supporting the Government’s ‘Snoopers Charter’ Bill – safety from terrorism outweighs some sacrifice of freedom from surveillance. But I was close to adding it to my long list of rebellions against the Coalition. It is great to have the freedom to speak up for my constituents and my conscience, without fear or favour.
I greatly enjoy just being a constituency MP. Last weekend, for example, I spoke at a lunch in Westonbirt and attended a very enjoyable party at Biddestone. I held surgeries in Calne and Royal Wootton Bassett; I toured Royal Wootton Bassett judging the Bassett in Bloom competition, looked in to the Tockenham Fete, just missed the Brownies in their camp; went to a delightful Garden Open at Bremhill, and the ‘Family Frolic’ in Malmesbury.
So I sympathise with my colleagues who have been sacked; I welcome them back to the real world of the backbenches, and the highly satisfying – and perfectly honourable – profession of a constituency MP.
I would not swap it for all the red boxes and ministerial limos in the world.