On May 7, the electorate in the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency voted in a new MP. Anne-Marie Trevelyan won the seat held by the retiring Sir Alan Beith since 1973, turning it from the yellow of Lib Dems to the blue of Conservatives for the first time in more than 40 years, with a whopping majority of almost 5,000 votes. In the first of a monthly MP’s column in the Herald, she reflects on a hectic first week in Westminster.
It has been a rollercoaster of activity from the word go, with the wonderful VE Day commemoration at Belford Middle School an hour after the result was declared, then a media frenzy as the evening news declared a majority Government elected.
My first week in Westminster brought lectures in protocol, legislative procedure and detailed study of regulatory requirements – but no map to stop me getting lost (twice!) while attempting to get to the library.
It all felt a bit like Freshers Week at university, with helpful old hands pointing us newbies in the right direction.
The North East is firmly on the map and I commend the Prime Minister for making his first out-of-London visit to our region.
He is focused on driving forwards a full policy agenda which for us needs to incorporate aggressive and speedy implementation of the Roads Strategy funding, such as dualling of the A1 towards the Scottish Border; getting into place the Enterprise Zone for north Northumberland, so that business leaders looking to set up new factories have a clear framework within which to make investment decisions; and keep driving the apprenticeship programme so that every company can take on and train more of our energetic young school leavers to give them a strong future career.
I will be speaking up on the need to build on our Military Covenant commitment to support so many returning armed forces personnel to the North East.
Many can get straight into civilian work, some may set up their own business with help from organisations like X-Forces, but others have complex health needs for which our civilian NHS is not adequately prepared.
This is going to be a particular focus for me as so many military heroes return to their homes and family in Northumberland.
I have met the new Armed Forces Minister to highlight this already.
As an MP with one of the largest rural constituencies, with sparsely populated communities, it is imperative that this new Government resolves the challenges involved to ensure that decent broadband can reach every single property, by investing in long-term solutions which will sustain our villages into the digital 21st century.
I have met the new Defra minister Rory Stewart MP to highlight the urgency of finding a viable answer.
In a quirk which I believe may be unique to our constituency, I am calling on our new Government to provide mains electricity to several communities which are still off the grid. I have been campaigning alongside those families, the Northumberland National Park and MOD at Otterburn to provide a practical solution and I will be calling on Ministers to help us solve this once and for all. And I will be monitoring closely the bill to be in the Queen’s Speech which will remove subsidies from onshore wind turbines, leaving local communities in the driving seat on whether these industrial giants are right for their area.
I want this new Conservative Government to drive innovation at every level, giving us the tools to succeed as individuals, families and businesses wherever we are in the UK.
Here in Westminster, the Speaker has been elected, I have been sworn in, the Queen’s Speech is imminent.
It is such an honour, and a responsibility, to be the voice of north Northumberland, and I will be doing my best to make full use of the tools provided to me.