SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Should every MP want to be a minister?

Sir Peter getting his blood pressure checked
Sir Peter getting his blood pressure checked

‘Every MP should have the raw talent to be a good minister. A significant proportion should be realistic candidates for No 10.’

These sentences by Clare Foges were published on Monday in The Times. She added: “All those who become members of parliament should be genuinely exceptional: fiercely intelligent, insightful, authoritative.”

Some of her examples, elected over a period of 25 years, properly included Harold Wilson, Denis Healey, Margaret Thatcher, Jim Prior and Roy Jenkins.

She did not mention Michael Foot, a fine and interesting MP who was a poor party leader and would have been a worse PM?

Tony Benn was an interesting minister though not my idea of the kind of person I would wish even another party to put into Downing Street. Denis Healey could have done well.

The writer’s main point was to attract and to elect her idea of the right kinds of new MPs.

She suggests making the role more attractive and she argues for more quality control, whatever that is.

It is good that some, not all, have ambition to serve in a ministerial role.

When Margaret Thatcher telephoned me nine years after I first became an MP; she asked me to become the junior employment minister responsible for industrial relations, health and safety at work, and fairer employment opportunities for women, people with ethnic backgrounds, younger people and greater opportunity for women and for carers.

I had neither expected the call, nor had I wanted it though when the prime minister of your country asks you to do something, you need a good reason to say no.

I could reverse the question: should every minister want to be An MP? (I recognise the valuable work of Lords ministers.)

I volunteered each year to give up my ministerial job because I came into parliament to be an active member of parliament, serving constituents and using that as the foundation for taking an interest in national policy.

One local example came from my luck in seeing the activity of the Worthing Churches Homeless Projects.

This week at Westminster with other MPs I joined the Speaker’s chaplain, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, to hear of similar younger projects in west London from the head of the Glass Door charity.

We considered what national and local government can do to help, recognising the particular circumstances and the needs of each individual who come under the umbrella expression ‘street homeless’.

I learned much from the medical service that was once associated with the Salvation Army’s centre in Worthing.

There are simple ways to make services available.

To join the sensible encouragement to have a personal blood pressure check, East Preston’s Jessica Zbinden-Webster told me to come with her to see the Palace of Westminster nurse.

My readings were acceptable; Jessica looked pleased that hers were exceptionally better.

Not that it is a competition, I did have the excuse that earlier that morning I had given blood.

I do encourage all who can to consider becoming a donor. Next time I may take a possible new donor.

Not everyone may want to be a doctor; some of us can try to make their tasks easier by giving blood products.

Younger people may like to listen to an excerpt of Tony Hancock’s Blood Donor?


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