‘The camaraderie, the hot house of gossip, being in the thick of it, I will miss that’ says retiring MP Sir Jim Paice

PUBLISHED: 15:56 12 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:56 12 March 2015

Retiring MP Sir Jim Paice, at his home in Fordham. Picture: HELEN DRAKE

Retiring MP Sir Jim Paice, at his home in Fordham. Picture: HELEN DRAKE

Archant

As he prepares to step down as the MP for South East Cambridgeshire after 28 years, Sir Jim Paice, 65, reflects on his time in Parliament, from the highs of election wins, to lows of being sacked as Minister for Farming – a job he loved.

Fact file

Sir James Paice

Born April 24, 1949, in Suffolk.

Graduated from Writtle Agricultural College in 1970.

Married wife Ava in 1973 – the couple have two sons.

Served on Suffolk Coastal District Council from 1976-1987, becoming chairman in 1983.

Elected as the Conservative MP for SE Cambs in 1987, succeeding Francis Pym.

Served as Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2010-2012.

Knighted in 2012 in recognition of his public service.

Sir Jim on his early days in the Houses of Parliament:

“In those days there was no help for new MPs at all, it was utterly absurd. These days they seem to have induction sessions for new MPs but then you were left to get on with it, you were in at the deep end.

“On my first day at Westminster, I walked to the entrance and told the police officer there that I had just been elected. You can imagine the look he gave me.

“He eventually told me where to get my identification and then Francis Pym’s [the MP who Sir Jim succeeded] secretary met me and showed me some basics of the building.

“Because I had nowhere to stay and no idea how long I was expected to be in London, Mr Pym’s secretary and her husband kindly let me stay with them for a few weeks.

“One of the things I found hardest when I first became an MP was no longer having control over my own diary.

Retiring MP Sir Jim Paice, at his home in Fordham. Picture: HELEN DRAKERetiring MP Sir Jim Paice, at his home in Fordham. Picture: HELEN DRAKE

“As soon you become an MP, your diary is under the control of the party whips. It took a while to get used to the fact that you simply couldn’t do what you wanted to do anymore.

“I won’t miss being at the beck and call of the whips and having to be there to vote.”

On Margaret Thatcher

“She had this sort of immense drive and there was an aura about her you couldn’t help but notice. Everybody was very respectful of her; you certainly didn’t approach her casually; that was for certain.”

Jim Paice in his early days as an MP.Jim Paice in his early days as an MP.

On John Major

“Some leaders [of the Conservative party] I have been closer to than others, but I have been loyal to them all.

“Of those I have served under, John Major really did have statesmanlike qualities, as we have seen more and more in recent times.

“I think history will paint him in a much better light.”

On UKIP

Sir Jim presenting the Parliamentary Small Shops award to Jonathan James, when he owned Budgens in Soham.Sir Jim presenting the Parliamentary Small Shops award to Jonathan James, when he owned Budgens in Soham.

“At the moment, it seems to me that they are having much less of an impact than they did six months ago.

“I think most people realise that a General Election is a serious event and people know that they cannot afford the luxury of a protest vote.

“That is not to say that the public don’t have genuine worries that UKIP has managed to strike a chord with. I don’t think that they will have much of an impact.”

On stand-out moments

“The week or two after I was sacked from the Government, I remember receiving piles of cards and letters from farmers from all over the country thanking me for what I had done while I was minister.

Sir Jim Paice with Conservative parliamentary candidate Lucy Frazer.Sir Jim Paice with Conservative parliamentary candidate Lucy Frazer.

“It was a tough time but I still have many of the letters I received. That time stands out for me.

“And I have also kept a lot of the thank-you letters I have received from constituents over the years.”

On retirement

“I think my wife and I began to realise during the last election campaign that it would probably be our last.

“I have no immediate plans to change my life apart from getting used to not being an MP. I have other work that I do and I am involved with, some charities so at the moment I am not thinking of doing anything else.

“My wife and I have got lots of true friends in this area so I have no plans to move away.

“The camaraderie, the hot house of gossip, being in the thick of it, I will miss that. It is just feeling that I will be outside looking in rather than being on the inside that I think I will miss about being in Westminster.”

On change

“The immediacy of e-mails is the biggest change I have experienced in my time as an MP. In the early days, my secretary used a typewriter to respond to constituents because there was no other form of communication but the arrival of the internet and e-mails altered that.

“I think it is has made everything more immediate. People used to wait days to receive a letter but now people expect an e-mail within a few hours.”


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