Herald column November 29th 2018

As part of the 100 years anniversary of women’s suffrage Parliament last week held an ‘Ask her to stand’ day where 300 women with an interest in getting involved in politics were invited for a ‘sample day’ in the Commons. I was delighted to be joined by Germaine from Worthing and Leila from Shoreham who spent the day with me and participated in a range of briefings and discussions and a commentary on a particularly lively Prime Minister’s Question Time.

The most important part of the day spent in my office was helping to select this year’s design for my constituency Christmas card from a number of excellent entries submitted by local primary schools. It is never an easy task to choose between them but congratulations to Eastbrook Primary for the winning entry and St Nic’s and St Mary’s for the runner-up. Now all we need to do is get them delivered. Thank you to both schools as well for taking part in the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy Project where I was able to deliver and help plant 5 saplings as part of this international environmental scheme to plant more trees across Commonwealth countries under Her Majesty’s protection.

The day ended with a photo-call for MPs to mark the event on a freezing Commons Terrace in front of the London Eye which was supposed to turn purple, green and white to mark the colours of the Suffragettes - purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. Alas technology failed and instead we had a red background until about ten minutes later we had all dispersed – it would never have happened if the Suffragettes had organised it!

Earlier in the week I was delighted to welcome 50 members of the Sompting & Lancing Pathfinders Group for a tour around Parliament. I had spoken at one of their monthly meetings at the Harriet Johnson Centre earlier in the year on the subject of Sussex Archaeology and invited them for a trip to the UNESCO world heritage site that is Parliament and they came up in force. It always surprises me just how few people have actually visited the Mother of Parliaments even though any citizen of the UK is entitled to come in addition to the many thousands of tourists we welcome each year. I spent about an hour with them afterwards for a talk and a question time session and we almost managed to avoid the dreaded B word – Brexit.

Given that MPs and Lords will be evacuating the whole building at some stage in the next few years for substantial restoration work I have been encouraging people to come and visit whilst they still can, so if you are part of a group that might be interested in a trip then do let me know.