Saturday, 29 December 2012

2012 in review; September, October, November and December

And so it was autumn / winter. I take look back at what went on this year as winter drew in...

September: the feature was Northumberland Day:
September saw me working with the Guardian's Polly Toynbee as I joined her and others in penning articles on why we need more responsible capitalism for the High Pay Centre on whose board I sit. The resulting pamphlet I am really proud of. September was also the month of our first ever Northumberland Day when we brough the Counties finest producers and suppliers to the House of Commons to show off their goods. Even the Prime Minister was impressed! September also saw plenty of time in Stannington, including a trip to their wonderful Church. I popped in to see the wonderful Joan and her team and see the entries at the Prudhoe Town Show. On top of that I had a visit to Albermarle Barracks, a working visit to Kielder forest, and visited the wonderful Haltwhistle, Bellingham and Ponteland Middle Schools and met the staff who are doing a great job.

Ocotber was a serious political month. In the reshuffle I was asked by the Prime Minister to help in the Home Office ,and given the job of PPS to Immigration Minister Mark Harper. October was party conference season and I spoke 9 times in Birmingham - all in fringe events far from the main stage. Conference is a chance to speak on ideas and blue sky thinking and debate. My favourite event was the 2 Policy Exhange events where 400 people crammed in to 2 separate events - one debating Conservatives in the north, and the second an event with Jesse Norman MP and Polly Toynbee again - on executive pay and radical solutions to big business - for the High Pay Centre event.
After conference I spent 4 whistle stop days in Israel on a cross party trip: it was fascinating. I love Israel as a country but our trip saw us go to the edge of war torn Gaza, to the key church and disputed sites in Jerusalem, and 2 cities subsequently attacked 4 weeks later - Ashdod and Tel Aviv. Our trip brought home the terrible difficulty of finding peace in Gaza, the west bank and Israel generally. A two state solution seems a long way off right now but I continue to meet with the Friends of Israel to discuss what we can do to help both in Westminster, and locally next year in Newcastle

This was the month of the Remberance Day service - I was at Haydon Bridge in the morning and Hexham in the afternoon. For me the month featured the Home Office very heavily as my first 6 weeks saw decisions on Abu Qatada, Gary McKinnon and Abu Hamza as well as the usual maelstrom of events at the Home Office. It is a fascinating place to work. I am very lucky to be there.
Locally, the campaigns on the Middle School closure fiasco in Allendale, and the problems with development in Ponteland on green belt have dominated. In addition, I was really pleased to go to a great event in Mickley where their local history has been faithfully recorded in a great local book.

I am Secretary of the All Party Group on Apprentices and we invited dozens of apprentices in to the House of Commons to meet with business leaders and both sides to exchange their experiences. It was a great event. Throughout this year Jade, the apprentice I originally hired just after my election has really improved and I was pleased to offer her a proper job at the end of her apprenticeship.
December also saw the launch of my book "Doing Time" with events in London and Hexham, with plenty of local radio and TV follow up. I am really pleased with the reception and feedback. We have had a busy month in Westminster with everything from the debate on Women Bishops, to the Energy Bill, and the decision to bring more of our troops home from Afghanistan. As we enjoy the festive season spare a particular thought for our troops in far off places defending us and doing their best to keep us safe. We are forever in their debt.