In the run up to polling day, days merge into one. The team is working hard, and not sleeping enough. Everyone was speaking to as many voters as they could in our area, and going to help in other neighbouring constituencies.
Thursday 7 May was a very long day. At 7am my daughters came to watch me vote for myself in our village hall. That was the first of many polling stations I visited throughout the day (though in the others I was merely thanking the staff)! The rest of the day was spent chasing ‘pledges’ and enjoying lunch in the Old Reindeer Inn in Banbury. As polling closed, we gathered in Spiceball for the count. Over 100 staff were there; some counting and others checking for accuracy. The whole operation was ably led by the Deputy Returning Officer, and his senior team.
It was a long night, with our team, and those of the other parties, sharing in triumphs and disasters around the UK, while drinking coffee in the leisure centre café. Eventually, soon after 7am on Friday morning, we got our results. Sir Tony came to cheer me on as I made my acceptance speech. I then had to do endless press interviews; during one of which my daughters rang up from the school bus as they had heard that I had been elected. There seemed to be a party going on. We then spent the afternoon and evening counting the local election votes. I’m so proud of our results; we increased the Conservative majority and successfully defended all of our council seats. We came very close in some wards, building strong foundations to work from in the future. When we eventually got home we found there was no food in the house, so the four of us went to the Red Lion in Stratton Audley, where the chicken curry was just what I needed.
The weekend was spent thanking the team, our village and our friends. We hosted the annual May Day as usual in bright sunshine on the Sunday afternoon. The Brackley Morris led the procession from the church to the apple orchards, and we drank last year’s cider and ate enormous quantities of cake while watching the May Queen and her attendants.
On the Monday I had to be in Westminster at 8.30am, so I caught my usual train from Bicester North. Thankfully Parliamentary staff were very patient with us, as we received passes and passwords in abundance. Induction sessions were run by the House, but more useful were those run by the Conservative party. These were dominated by the Whips, who like to portray a caring and helpful image these days, and made it quite clear that our presence would be required in Westminster a great deal! The first couple of weeks are difficult in that offices and computers are not in place to deal with the enormous postbag, so meetings took place in a bench in Central Lobby or a café. When I get settled I am hoping to commute home most nights, but for the first week I spent three nights in London. When I got home I was delighted to find that my husband and children had learnt how to use the washing machine, and even cooked beef stew.
I took my seat on the green benches for the first time the following Monday, when we elected the Speaker. This was really the first time I had seen any of the old-timers, or faced the serried ranks of the SNP. As we weren’t sitting, I was able to squeeze in a Constituency day on the Tuesday, which including an outing to watch Fritwell School perform a suitably violent but very musical version of David and Goliath. On the Wednesday, after coffee at 10 Downing Street, I went to stand in line to take the oath. Every MP must do this at the start of a new Parliament, or they have to vacate their seat. The MP in front of me took his oath in Gaelic.
I’m now looking forward to getting stuck in to both local and national issues. It is a great honour to be able to represent the people of North Oxfordshire in Parliament.