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Each Saturday, Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell gives an insight into the working week of a local MP.

January 15, 2013 10:28 AM
Sir Bob Russell MP in the Commons

Sir Bob in The Commons

2012 was a great year for Britain - the Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years' reign of Her Majesty The Queen, followed by the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. These wonderful occasions helped soften the public mood with the continuing difficulties facing the country, but there is still much for the Coalition Government to do to correct the financial state of the nation which we inherited in 2010.

Therefore, while I extend New Year's greetings to everyone, I acknowledge that the next 12 months will again be difficult. I see my role as seeking to lessen the worst excesses of what might otherwise be the case if my Party was not part of the Coalition.

I was able to buy tickets to see the end of 2012 and the arrival of 2013 with the sensational fireworks display in London, as viewed from the House of Commons. Then it was back to Colchester for my first diary event of the year, my annual New Year's Day Walk at 10am. The five-mile circular route from my office took in significant sites of Roman Colchester. A record 35 people took part, and I was able to send £155 in donations to Colchester Food Bank.

Since last Saturday, other than Sunday and New Year's Day, I did some work each day although officially my office was closed. Good to catch up in such quiet hours!

On New Year's Eve I went to the St Aubyn Centre (adolescent mental health unit) at Severalls and gave them two of my Jubilee Oaks, which I have grown, to be planted in the grounds.

My office re-opened on Wednesday to deal with a mountain of mail which had arrived. On Thursday I met two students from the University of Essex (both from Suffolk) to discuss a volunteering project they are undertaking in South Africa. I then went to Highwoods Community Centre for a holiday club for children with learning difficulties. In the afternoon I held my first Advice Bureau of 2013 for residents. In the evening I attended Colchester Sixth Form College's annual Awards Evening, held at Charter Hall.

Looking back over the past 12 months, this was a particularly momentous year for me because as 2012 commenced it was announced that I had been awarded a Knighthood in the New Year's Honours. This was bestowed upon me by The Queen at Buckingham Palace on 22nd March, with my wife Audrey and twin sons Andrew and Mark in attendance. Three days later our daughter Nicola gave birth to her second child (our fourth grandchild), son Sam who weighed in at 10lbs 14 ozs.

Amongst all this happiness, however, was the huge shadow of a serious complaint - made by a member of Colchester Conservatives to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards - which could have brought my 41 years of holding elected public office in Colchester to an end. The fact that I am still here shows that this malicious act did not succeed! But it wasted a lot of my time in rebutting the wickedness.

I attended the historic event in Westminster Hall when The Queen addressed both Houses of Parliament, and afterwards I met The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in The Royal Gallery of the House of Lords.

I was not able to get tickets for the Olympics, but bought four for the Paralymics for myself and friends. We had a glorious evening at the Olympic Stadium and witnessed several British athletes win medals.

Excluding the events listed above, 2012 was very much the same as other years in terms of my work at the Commons and in the constituency. My membership of the Defence Select Committee occupied a lot of my time, linked with my role as MP for a Garrison Town.

One Army matter which gave me particular pride was my involvement in helping to establish the "Colchester Military Wives Choir". I also arranged for them to perform at the Commons, on the Wednesday evening prior to Remembrance Day. Earlier they visited The Field of Poppies, outside Westminster Abbey, to lay a wreath. Big Ben struck 5pm during a two minutes silence which added poignancy.

The Choir has quickly established itself with several performances in Colchester. My wife and I were honoured that the Choir invited us to their first public performance, for "family and friends", having welcomed us to two rehearsals as we saw this lovely group of Army wives come together to achieve a high standard.

I undertook one overseas military visit, as a guest of the Australian Government. The two other British MPs on the five-day packed programme were the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence.

I continued to have a full diary of events at the Commons and in the constituency, with visits to numerous schools and places of work ranging from Colchester General Hospital to The Royal Mail Sorting Office, and companies large and small with particular mention of Albea Ltd (formerly Betts of Colchester), Britain's largest producer of tubes for toothpaste, who invited me to perform the official opening of their new factory. Two days ago I returned to hand over one of my oak trees to be planted outside the factory to commemorate this event.

My diary entries for 2013 already indicate that I shall have another busy 12 months, although without the Royal and Olympic events which made 2012 such a special year in my life.

Liberal Democrat Sir Bob Russell is the only non-Conservative MP in Essex and Suffolk.

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