It’s been pretty clear that Nicky Morgan has been enjoying the freedom of the backbenches ever since Theresa May sacked her as education secretary on coming to power in July.
In particular, Morgan has turned on May’s flagship domestic policy of developing a new wave of grammar schools, taking to the airwaves to argue this will be blocked by the House of Commons.
For the latest in our series of ‘Top Fives’, in which we put prominent politicians on the spot with demands for a quick list on everything from sporting heroes to best opponents, Mark Leftly asked Morgan: what are the best things about returning to the backbenches?
Given Morgan’s son is only eight-years-old, Morgan’s immediate thoughts turned to having more time for her family after the “crazy” hours she worked as a minister…
1. No weekend red boxes!
You have to find up to six hours every weekend to sit there and plough through what is effectively your homework. It is a crazy system that we still have. The civil service work all week up until end of the business day, but ministers are expected to work late into the night and over the weekends. The stress levels of trying to finish a box when you’ve got [events like] Remembrance services, local constituency events, there maybe family things going on! Getting to 6pm on a Sunday when the box is collected was always like ‘phew’. And then you think: ‘I’ve spent the whole weekend in the study, not actually seeing anybody at home.’
2. Being able to ask questions in the House of Commons on local issues
3. Being able to speak not just on one ministerial brief
4. Telling the whips: ‘Actually, I’m not going to be here’
The whips have a lot less leverage [than when you’re a minister] – so you have the freedom to do family events or constiutuency events without having to clear several diaries all at the same time
5. Getting to know colleagues both in your own party and across the House