So, Theresa May has appointed her first government. And it clearly marks a sharp lurch to the right of politics. Several ministers have returned who had previously been considered unsuitable for office in David Cameron’s attempts to move away from the ‘Nasty Party’ image identified, ironically, by Theresa May herself.
But this was the first big government reshuffle where I personally knew many of the participants, and it was a strange and often frustrating experience.
First of all – and this might surprise you - I have friends on the Tory benches. Obviously I don’t want the Conservatives in government, but if they must be in office, I hope my friends get the chance of a government job. I won’t name them here for fear of putting a black spot on their career, but when the lists are coming out of Downing Street, you are looking for the people you know and like.
But even for an Opposition MP there is an added worry. For example, together with neighbouring MPs Justin Madders and Graham Evans, we have been working with our council Leader Samantha Dixon on the local transport infrastructure, in particular the M56 and some local railway upgrades. This includes partnership-working with neighbouring councils over the Welsh border, and Samantha and her team produced a fantastic strategy for railway development in our area.
Justin, Graham, Samantha and I, with local businesses leaders like Clive Sykes, took the strategy to Railways Minister Claire Perry, who was impressed. It seemed we were on our way to getting what we need for our area - then Claire leaves the government so now we will almost have to start again with a new minister.
George Freeman is another minister I have been working with. I want him to authorise a course of a new medication for Matty Jones, of Upton, who is suffering from a rare kidney condition – you may have read about Matty’s case in The Standard. Except George was sacked. So again I will need to make the case for Matty’s treatment to a new Health Minister.
And Mike Penning, Police and Crime Minister, who has given me big support in the campaign for a new police inquiry into the disappearance of Rebecca Coriam, from Guilden Sutton, has been moved to the Ministry of Defence. Mind you, reshuffles can work both ways: Mike was Shipping Minister when Rebecca first disappeared, so he was already familiar with her case when I first approached him.
The new right-wing government will be focussing all of its attention on leaving the EU. My job is to stay focused and get to ministers, new or old, and ensure that our priorities in Chester are not knocked off their agenda. Most importantly, I will continue to ensure that people who need answers can get their voices heard.