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Farewell from me in East Anglia’s seat in the parliament press gallery

Annabelle Dickson with presidential candidates (well cardboard cut-outs)

Annabelle Dickson with presidential candidates (well cardboard cut-outs)

Archant

This week I say farewell to the Eastern Daily Press and the East Anglian Daily Times.

Pastures new beckon for me at the US-founded political news organisation Politico, which started a venture in Brussels in 2014 and is rapidly expanding in Westminster, where I will still be based.

My tenure at the helm of our political coverage is short when compared with the some of regional political editor titans of the past whose names are inscribed on the Westminster press gallery walls.

But I suspect events in the years I have covered politics for some of East Anglia’s daily papers will have plenty of column inches devoted to them in the history books.

In some ways it was fitting that my first task in post was to cover the death of Margaret Thatcher - a woman who oversaw great change (good or bad depending on your political leanings).

Her passing was seen as the end of an era.

At the time of her death amid a relatively stable coalition government, reflecting on the Lady Thatcher years prompted nostalgia (among journalists at least) for the dramatic days when plots and counter-plots brought down the first female prime minister.

Few would have predicted that just a few years on in the extraordinary sleep-deprived weeks after the unexpected vote to leave the European Union there would be another tale of leadership betrayal by justice secretary Michael Gove to chronicle.

Or that it would ultimately lead to the coronation of Britain’s second female prime minister.

When I started in 2013, Labour thought it was preparing for power and Ed Miliband was seen as a threat to David Cameron.

The Liberal Democrats held ministerial posts. Now their handful of MPs have to be heard above the din of the 2015 Scottish National Party on the opposition benches who have renewed hope that their dream of Scottish independence may become a reality.

Four years ago Douglas Carswell was a Conservative backbencher. Since then the UK Independence Party gained its first MP and lost its only MP. We will find out in May if the party retains its local influence.

The political change has been rapid.

It has been fascinating to cover. But the world also feels a more insecure and uncertain place.

This felt most stark when I emerged from the dingy Chelmsford sports centre June 24 last year after a frantic rush for our 4am print deadline to get in the result. The size of the political moment was put into context after watching the pound fall dramatically overnight.

Reassuring in many ways was how nonplussed people seemed to be on the first train from Essex to London where I was off to see David Cameron resign. We do not yet know where the vote to leave the European Union will take us.

I would venture that the terms of our European Union divorce will keep political hacks in business for some years yet.

Beyond Europe, Syrian and other conflicts remain unresolved.

One of the big votes of my stint as political editor of the EDP was the dramatic scenes in the House of Commons when David Cameron did not win the backing of MPs to take military action in Syria. What would have happened if they had, we will never know.

And I was lucky enough to see Donald Trump in the flesh when on a US election reporting tour in Ohio.

But equally compelling and important are the local stories I have covered.

The attempt to bring devolution to East Anglia which floundered, the long running battles for better infrastructure and the political capital expended on securing funding from closely guarded coffers among them.

My job has also been to watch our members of parliament.

Westminster’s reputation is still recovering from the damage of the Westminster expenses scandal. Trust in politicians is low.

Certainly politicians are not infallible. Politicians make poor decisions and mistakes and it is our job to report and question them.

But the titles I have reported for have been willing to give credit where it is due. There are good stories from Westminster. I have tried to be as neutral and fair as I can. I may not always have succeeded. Thank you for the letters and emails over the years - both critical and in agreement. It has been a privilege to write this column and report on Westminster for East Anglia.

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