Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 12 April 2012


Last Sunday I clocked up 20 years at Westminster and I have been reflecting on the changes in our country and politics in that relatively short time.

Some of you will recall that I was a last minute stand in for the mighty Alan Clark who announced he was standing down on 21st February 1992.  I was selected for the then Plymouth Sutton to replace him on 10th March, the election was called by John Major the very next day and on 9th April 1992 I was elected to Parliament.

Back then there were no mobile phones or e-mails so the sudden separation from family for 4-5 days a week was rather abrupt. These days plenty of my colleagues stay in touch with home by video phone or Skype several times a day, much less brutal. In my first Parliament we had the Maastricht Treaty debates and endless all night sittings, a baptism of fire. These days we rarely go beyond 10.30pm, much more civilised. I enjoyed my time as a whip and minister in the first Parliament, even if by the end we were clinging on by our finger nails with a majority of one.

Then came boundary changes, South West Devon and a Labour landslide and 13 years trudging through the wilderness of opposition began. Her Majesty's opposition play a vital role in our democracy, but nothing can satisfy politically quite like being in power! I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 years in the shadow cabinet shadowing the formidable Clare Short. But perhaps the highlight in opposition for me was the private member's bill which Jan and I drafted that nearly made it onto the statute book but certainly paved the way for much more government help for families with profoundly disabled children, especially respite care.

Now back in government again, in historic coalition, and enjoying the different challenges that brings.

The job has changed greatly in 20 years. Much more case work now and we seem to spend less time legislating. I spend my time chairing endless meetings at Westminster and struggle to find the time to get into the chamber. The media is more intrusive than back then and sadly our standing generally in society has diminished.

But being elected to pass laws and represent your constituents in the Mother of Parliaments remains a great privilege that I hope to continue until normal retirement age, which as you all know is now about 74!

posted by Gary @ 09:23