The borough of Melton has been represented by just four MPs since the Second World War, but a fifth will be elected next month following Sir Alan Duncan’s surprise decision to bring his 27-year tenure to a close.
The Conservative Party has had a stranglehold on the constituency with Sir Anthony Nutting voted into office in 1945, Mervyn Pike succeeding him 11 years later, Michael Latham taking over in 1974 and Sir Alan first celebrating electoral success aged 35 in 1992 when John Major was prime minister.
He went into politics after a successful career in the oil industry and served in the cabinet and, latterly, in the Foreign Office, during his many years in Parliament.
Sir Alan left the House of Commons for the final time on Tuesday and I spoke to him about his time as MP for Rutland and Melton. This is what he had to say:
NICK RENNIE: What will you miss most about being MP for Rutland and Melton?
SIR ALAN DUNCAN: Quite simply it’s the best constituency and a great place to live. It is solid, decent England at its best but I’m still going to live here, so I’ll still meet familiar faces in the street. However, if they ask me about the government I’m afraid that’s now nothing to do with me!
NR: What are the major differences about being an MP today compared to when you started in 1992?
AD: We have 24-hour news and social media and some people have become very rude in the way they communicate with their MP. Instead of big policies from government we get short-term press releases. The scrutiny we get is far more intense and incessant.
NR: What were the main challenges in the constituency in your first year compared to 2019?
AD: In a way it’s still the same in that constituents’ personal problems come first. My casework staff have been brilliant. I think there is more social breakdown in Melton than there was 25 years ago.
NR: Which major achievements are you most proud of in the constituency and is there anything you regret not being able to achieve?
AD: I got Oakham its bypass and have just secured final funding for Melton’s. In 1992 we had four defence bases. Soon we will just have one barracks and the Defence Animal Centre. We like the armed forces tradition locally. I would have liked to see more local hospital care, but inevitably that has moved to bigger hospitals in surrounding towns.
NR: Are there any funny memories you can tell us about from your time serving as MP?
AD: I’ve had lots of laughs over the last 27 years. People are invariably cheerful and I have many, many happy memories.
NR: Which Commons speech had the most impact on you during your time as an MP and why was it so important?
AD: The ones that really strike home are on matters of conscience such as assisted suicide and gay rights where an MP draws on their personal experience and you notice that some MPs are quietly shedding a tear. That’s the House of Commons at its best.
NR: Do you believe Brexit will be a good thing for residents in Melton and has the political deadlock on the issue been damaging to the nation as a whole?
AD: I am not persuaded that leaving the EU is going to bring any substantial benefits to the UK. Obviously the process itself, with three years of chaos, has been very damaging. The only way out of this is to have a clear government majority so that Parliament can escape from its recent deadlock.
NR: What advice would you give to your successor when they start work in the Rutland and Melton seat?
AD: Get to know every corner of the constituency and all of the issues so that you work hard in your first few years to build a lasting reputation for being a good constituency MP. At the same time, sit in the chamber of the Commons for as much as you can and get a feel for all of its procedures and conventions.
NR: How would you like to be remembered for your 27 years service in the constituency?
AD: I hope people think that I was hardworking, consistent and direct in my views. No MP can ever win everyone’s support. After all, politics is about wrestling with different opinions. I hope my legacy will be a completed Melton bypass which can bring future economic prosperity to the whole area.
NR: What personal and professional plans do you have now your time as an MP has come to an end?
AD: I intend to return to business but look forward to retaining an interest in politics, particularly in helping some of our international relations with friendly countries.