‘It’s 100 miles an hour all day, every day’ - new Norfolk MP reveals rollercoaster start to life in parliament
- Credit: Archant
Following last month's general election, North Norfolk is now represented in Westminster by businessman Duncan Baker. STUART ANDERSON headed to Westminster to find out what life is like for a new MP.
Duncan Baker's daily commute has changed monumentally in the past couple of months.
Until recently the 40-year-old drove from his Aylmerton home through north Norfolk's fields and foliage to Holt.
There he had an office literally 'above the shop' at department store Bakers and Larners, where he was finance director.
He now has a flat in Westminster and has to dodge non-stop traffic and tourist hordes to make it into the corridors of power.
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His new office is in the palace itself, just down the hall from senior Tory Andrea Leadsom.
Mr Baker said he felt like he was quickly getting to grips with what had been a whirlwind change, although some things did take getting used to.
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"What I've been amazed about is how careful they are with our security," he said, picking up a GPS fob issued to all MPs.
"You can either press it and the security services can hear what's going on, or you can press an SOS button and police show up to your location.
"That's all in the light of Jo Cox and other incidents we've had recently. Life has changed somewhat and you don't really expect those things."
Mr Baker claimed North Norfolk for the Conservatives at the December 12 election following 18 years of the constituency being represented by Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb.
He has since resigned from being Tory group leader on North Norfolk District Council, but - unusually - he plans to continue as a councillor, juggling that role with his Westminster duties.
Mr Baker said: "There's no better way of having an understanding of the detail of what's going on back in your constituency than by being a district councillor. I'm a hard worker. That's what I've done for a decade and that's why I've got to where I've got to, because I put in the hours.
"There's 109 new MPs, and let's be honest, I'm not going to be chancellor of the exchequer next week, so I don't think it's going to be a problem.
Mr Baker said life in Westminster was "extremely full-on".
He said: "It's 100 miles an hour all day, every day. Dealing with issues, talking to ministers, going to the right places to get access to the right people to try and help solve problems. And I love it.
"I drop the children off on a Monday morning, get straight on the train and get into Westminster by about midday.
"There's always legislation going on or debates in the chamber, and every day there's questions to be put into ministers.
"We're here from Monday to Thursday evening, when I take the train back and try to do constituency work on a Friday."
Mr Baker took over his Westminster flat from former Broadland MP Keith Simpson. He said he felt lucky to have set up a base quickly, having originally envisaged living out of a hotel for the first nine months.
He is also in the process of setting up his constituency office in North Walsham, where he will employ a team of three, in addition to a senior advisor based in London.
But he said the impact the new role would have on his family was impossible to bypass. He and his wife Nina have two daughters - Isabelle, eight, and Eleanor, four.
Mr Baker said: "I don't see my children every night, I don't put them to bed and read them a bedtime story and that's a huge sacrifice.
"But there's modern technology, you've got FaceTime and can talk to each other. They're tired when they get in from school, so they're quite keen not to have to talk to dad every night.
"And there's an added pressure on my wife to have to run the family home, which of course, I'm incredibly grateful for."
Mr Baker said it was "incredibly sad" his stepfather, Michael Baker, did not live to see him enter parliament.
Michael, the former managing director of Bakers and Larners and a long-time Brexit campaigner, died in June last year.
Mr Baker said: "It's incredibly sad that he hasn't got to see me become an MP, nor will he get to see us leave the European Union.
"But in my first week I wore his watch and his shoes - my feet hurt a lot, but at least he was looking down."
Mr Baker has already become chairman of a 'net zero all party parliamentary group' so he can tackle environmental issues, something which - alongside promoting business and addressing north Norfolk's dire ambulance response times - was among his top priorities.