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Why I’m not bitter over Cameron snub
"SURPRISED and disappointed” – that’s how MP James Duddridge described his emotions when he found out he had lost his Government job.
The Tory politician, who has represented Rochford and Southend East since 2005, was serving his fifth year as a party whip when he was called into a Parliamentary office during David Cameron’s recent reshuffle.
There he was dealt the bad news he would be removed from his post and, rather than taking up a role as a minister of state, that he was destined for the back benches instead.
“It was a surprise to be relieved of my functions – or sacked in anyone else’s terminology!,” Mr Duddridge said, with an ironic smile.
“But it wasn’t entirely unexpected. I knew there were going to be big changes in the whips’ office and, of course, you have suspicions when the chief whip holds a leaving party a few days before!
“I was told the decision wasn’t anything to do with how I’d performed. It was a case of the new chief whip wanting his own team.”
It was a sudden setback for a man whose career had been on a permanent upward trajectory.
Born in Bristol, Mr Duddridge became a researcher for Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin after completing his degree, before starting work for Barclays in 1993. His banking career took him to Africa – firstly Swaziland, and then the Ivory Coast – before he returned to contest the 2001 general election as a Tory candidate in Rother Valley, Yorkshire.
His loss to Labour’s Kevin Barron, by a huge majority of 14,882, heralded the start of another stint in Africa’s banking network, this time in Botswana.
He finally succeeeded in becoming an MP four years later, when he replaced Teddy Taylor as the Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East.
In 2008, he was made an opposition whip, a role that metamorphosed into a Government whip when the coalition took power in May 2010.
It was a role he deeply enjoyed, but one which took him out of his constituents’ sight lines.
“I always felt as though I wasn’t as visible, from a constituency point of view,” he said.
“As a whip, I couldn’t speak up in the House of Commons, so while I might have had a bit of influence behind closed doors, what I was doing wasn’t as obvious as it might have been.”
Will that change now?
“Absolutely,” he said. “One of the best things about being on the back benches is the time it gives me to spend talking to my constituents and fighting for them.
“I want to use that time to almost take a step back and reconnect with some of the things I was involved in before I became an MP. I know how that may sound, but I think it’s important that, as an MP, you are in touch with the world.”
Mr Duddridge freely admits he would have liked a role as a minister of state, but he is philosophical about the reasons why he missed out. He said: “I wouldn’t want to be a minister simply for the title.
“I’d want to be a minister in a department where I could really put my skills to good use, such as using my experience in banking.
“I think the reasons I lost my role as a whip are simple. Firstly, there was a new chief whip, and secondly there were better people for the other jobs which were available.”
Isn’t he bitter about that?
“Not at all,” he said. “I think too many politicians spout what I’d call verbal diarrhoea when they lose out on these things.
“I’m not like that. I still believe in what this Government is doing and my loyalty is still strong.”