Last week-end was a fairly typical sequence of events for an MP, so I share my diary with readers.
Friday morning began with a spell at the newly-opened PDSA charity shop in Andover. To commemorate Community Service Volunteers “Make a Difference Day”, MP’s were asked to volunteer to work for a local charity and I was seconded to Tina, the Manager of the shop in the High St.
However energetic the task you are given in a second hand shop, don’t take your jacket off to do it. It will be measured, labelled, priced, put on a coat hanger and sold for £2.99 before you have rolled up your sleeves.
I was shown into the upstairs store room, and confronted by a mountain of multi-coloured material. I picked up what I thought was a table cloth, but it turned out to be an outsize ladies garment. My task was to extricate a garment – with its mate if it had one – identify what size it was by inspecting the label and then put it on a coat-hanger with an appropriately coloured cube attached to the hook. I was told that no skill was required to do this; but a more accurate analysis would have said that some skills were required, but they were not skills that I happened to have. The cubes were difficult to get onto the hooks; the clothes slid off the hangers, and some garments, however you configured them, would not fit on a hanger.
After nearly an hour, I am not sure whether I had made a difference; but I now know a lot more about ladies garments and I admire the staff and volunteers at the shop for what they do.
Then on to St Mary Bourne Village centre to welcome David Cameron, who had responded so promptly to my invitation to visit North West Hampshire, a constituency with a rich harvest of votes waiting to be garnered, that we had but 48 hours to tell folk he was coming. The hall was packed, and it was a good day for Cameron, and indeed for the George Inn across the road. Some of my supporters subsequently appeared in the national media, one described as a glamorous sixty-plus blonde. Diana, you don’t look a day over 40.
Then on Saturday evening, I found myself at Thruxton Race Track, microphone in hand, invited to address an audience of 7000 – roughly a hundred times the size of a normal audience in my constituency. This was to launch Andover’s Fireworks Spectacular, organised by Round Table and Rotary, under the dynamic leadership of Andrew Bulpitt.
I thought of saying that, with the recent passage of legislation making it a criminal offence to glorify terrorism, every one of the seven thousand risked imprisonment for attending an event commemorating the near-achievement of Guy Fawkes. But I didn’t. I also thought of saying that, four hundred years ago, those who wanted to destroy the Government tried to blow it up. To day there was no need. This Government was achieving the same objective unassisted. But I didn’t. Instead, I congratulated the organisers and watched the most fantastic display I have ever seen.