Tripping down an MP's memory lane

1:51pm Tuesday 22nd July 2008

SIR George Young has been Andover's MP for more than ten years.

He was first elected as MP for North West Hampshire on 1 May 1997 with a majority of 11,551 votes. In May 2005 he was relected with a majority of 13,264. Here he shares his thoughts with readers.

Last week saw two trips into the past. One was relevant to my duties at Westminster, the other to those in the constituency.

The first was a visit to the National Theatre. One of the advantages of the modernisation of the House of Commons is that, on Thursdays, we rise at 6pm. This has brought us broadly into line with the working life of those we represent, who thought it odd that the law was made in the small hours of the morning. Those constituents who believe that, the less we sit, the less damage we do to the country may be heartened by this news. However, though we sit for shorter hours, the Government has increased the volume of legislation we are supposed to scrutinise.

They hope we will respond by increasing our productivity. It is as if the boss doubled the speed of the production line, hoping that people would spot the defective products as they flashed past.

Not so; the quality inspectorate in the House of Lords returns much of our work with poor marks - but that is another story. The impact of the changes means that I can buy a ticket for the theatre on a Thursday evening, confident of being able to stay to the end. Under the previous regime, I had to leave a number of plays, not knowing who had murdered the duchess/ sired the hero/betrayed the country.

The National Theatre is showing "Never So Good" - a sensitive recreation of key events in the life of Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister 50 years ago. Many of the audience looked as though they had voted for him, but there was a smattering of younger people there as well. The play was well acted, though Jeremy Irons looks more like Anthony Eden than Harold Macmillan. And the chap playing Winston Churchill looked like Alfred Hitchcock. Politicians in those days drank and smoked more than their successors, but swore less. Spared the attention of 24 hour media, undistracted by emails and Blackberries, they lived a more leisurely life (interrupted by some all night sittings). They seemed much better off - as the title of the play implied - even though they had no access to the allowances that receive so much contemporary attention. At no point in the play do constituency interests get any mention - perhaps the biggest difference between now and then.

Which leads me to the second trip into the past - to the Overton Regency Sheep Fair. This event is held every four years, and the theme for this one was the Regency Period. The village responded well, attiring themselves in contemporary costumes for the two days of the fair. I approached some auctioneers in top hats and morning suits outside the estate agent, and asked if any houses were for sale in the village for 200 guineas.

There was a pause. Then one replied. "Come back in two weeks. The way the market is going, we may be able to help."

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