Party time for Jim Paice as he celebrates 25 years as an MP and he receives personal congratulations from the Prime Minister

SOUTH East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice celebrated 25 years in Parliament with a party at Chilford Hall, one of the last functions to take place at the historic property before parts of it were destroyed by fire.

Little more than 48 hours before its 18th Century barns were gutted by fire, thought to have been started by arsonists, councillors, constituents and friends alike joined Mr Paice for a function at the hall to mark a quarter-of-a-century of service to the region.

Speaking to the Ely Standard, Jim said: “It was a wonderful location, a lot of people came to congratulate me and wish me well. I was quite taken aback by the level of support and very honoured by it.”

Prime Minister David Cameron also sent his congratulations to 63-year-old Jim, a letter arriving a few days before the big occasion.

Despite winning six elections, Jim said he had no intention of stepping down in the immediate future but added that he wouldn’t want to carry on for too long.

He said: “I’m not going to speculate as to how long I might continue to serve but I think I would stand down if I felt that I didn’t enjoy it anymore, or if I felt I had nothing more to offer.”

Jim, who is now the Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs, has served continuously as MP longer than the majority of MPs in Parliament but he is still some years short of Sir Peter Tapsell, who was first elected to Parliament in 1959, and is the current Father of the House.

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In his 25 years, Jim has worked alongside political heavyweights, including Margaret Thatcher and John Major, but he says that Parliament today lacks the sort of characters it once had.

The Labour Party’s landslide victory in 1997 was a particularly memorable event that has stuck with Jim in his time as MP, but said the only thing he would change about his time in Parliament would be his specialisation in agriculture.

He said: “I don’t there is a person in this world who wouldn’t do anything differently if given the chance.

“Although I am very happy to be minister for agriculture, I think I should have specialised in it earlier than I did instead of trying to be a general politician as I was as a young man.”