CROSS-PARTY co-operation, if not friendship, was a welcome, if unexpected, discovery when I first entered the Commons. The hoo-ha of Prime Minister’s Questions doesn’t typify the chamber, most people are relieved to hear.Greg Knight, the popular Tory MP for East Yorkshire, has established a number of non-partisan friendships with other MPs down the years. He’s the unlikely drummer in MP4, whose members also include two Labour MPs and an SNP MP. Over a curry one evening, Greg proved himself highly entertaining and (more or less) discreet as he regaled us with tales from the whips’ office in the days of John Major’s premiership. He’s also, I was hugely impressed to discover, a close personal friend of Franki Valli of Four Seasons fame.
Greg has always had a keen interest in transport matters, so recently, when piloting the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill through the Commons, I found myself debating a particularly technical clause with him. He proposed a small but significant amendment, which I informed the House I would be willing to accept, since it seemed an eminently sensible one.
Gracious as ever, Greg took the opportunity of the Third Reading debate on the bill to thank me for my co-operation and expressed the hope that, come the next reshuffle, I would be promoted to Minister of State*. As he sat down, a senior ministerial colleague sitting further along the Treasury bench, leaned over and whispered: “That’s you f****d then, son!”
* Unusually for Hansard, they picked this up completely wrong, and it’s now in the official record as “Secretary of State”. Go figure.