Last night I attended a meeting of the Arise Metropolitan Assembly at the Elm Park assembly hall. They had gathered to thank their MP, James Brokenshire, for his work with the community in the area.
James was elected in 2005 to represent Hornchurch and he immediately went to work, building up a reputation as a strong advocate for constituents. His predecessors, Labour's John Cryer, and the Conservative Robin Squire, both had good links in the area, so they were not an easy act to follow. Nevertheless, James is highly thought of as this meeting demonstrated.
A year after his election, James was promoted to the front bench, becoming shadow minister for crime reduction. He also finds time to spend with Cathy, his wife, and their three children. James was one of a very few MPs who didn't claim second home expenses and chose instead to commute to work.
At the coming election the Hornchurch constituency is being abolished. The new boundary runs through the middle of Elm Park, splitting the community between Hornchurch & Upminster, which should be retained by Conservative MP Angela Watkinson, and Dagenham & Rainham, which is shaping up to be an interesting fight between Labour MP Jon Cruddas and energetic Conservative challenger, Simon Jones. Jon has let it be known that if he loses his seat he would like to be Labour's candidate for Mayor - we're hoping to make at least part of his dream come true...
James was left without a seat and had to tour the country looking for a new place to represent. Being a shadow minister made him look like an establishment choice, which didn't help his chances with independent minded party members at selection committees. After several rejections he was adopted by Old Bexley & Sidcup, Ted Heath's former seat. Our loss is their gain and we wish him well.