Sir Alan Duncan has been MP for Rutland and Melton for exactly 25 years. Since being first elected to Parliament in April 1992, he has seen five different Prime Ministers running the country.
Sir Alan, who has just turned 60, was awarded a diplomatic knighthood (KCMG) in 2014 and is currently Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
In this special feature, he looks back on his quarter of a century as a politician.
How would you sum up the experience of being an MP for the last 25 years?
Sir Alan Duncan: “It’s never boring and the decisions we take can make a massive difference to people’s lives. It’s relentlessly busy and most people are appreciative but some people think we can just be shouted at.”
What are your biggest achievements as an MP, on a local level in Melton, and on a national level?
Sir Alan Duncan: “The most important thing is to help individuals who have a problem. I have long since lost count of the number of problems I and my staff have solved. The whole idea of being an MP was to make laws and go to Parliament to deal with national issues. We have become more and more drawn into local problem-solving which is really what councillors are for. But if we can make a difference then of course it’s worth doing. Nationally, I helped steer through the Civil Partnership Bill and have been involved in the leadership campaigns of three successful leaders. I hope my opinions don’t just feed headlines but are treated seriously.
How has the job of an MP changed in the 25 years?
Sir Alan Duncan: “When I started there were no mobile phones and there was no internet. 24-hour news and social media have changed things dramatically. My main concern is that most MPs are just sucked into a daily routine and have no idea how to use Parliament to change the law and make a real difference.
What have been the most memorable occasions you have been involved in in Melton?
Sir Alan Duncan: “The fire which burnt down the council offices, like all disasters also gave us an opportunity. I have some great photos of the visit of the Queen to Melton and a fantastic event at Belvoir Castle with Lady Thatcher.
Do you have any regrets about anything you have done during your time as an MP?
Sir Alan Duncan: “In politics it is better not to have regrets, only hopes for the future. One of my rules is that you should always be a happy politician.”
How many Prime Ministers have you served under and how would you describe each one in a sentence?
Sir Alan Duncan: “I have served under Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and May. Major – steady during a miserable period. Blair – a Flash Harry publicist who stayed too long. Brown – simply awful with no redeeming qualities. Cameron – rebuilt the Conservatives after a difficult period but reckless with referendums. May – solid as a rock, and has stabilised the country at a time of potential crisis.
Who has been the single most outstanding politician you have encountered at Westminster in the 25 years and what makes them so outstanding?
Sir Alan Duncan: “Ken Clarke. He has been consistent, held many offices of state, never gets angry and is one of those likeable trustworthy politicians who are all too rare.”
What are the biggest challenges ahead for Melton borough over the next 25 years?
Sir Alan Duncan: “We need that by-pass - preferably all the way around Melton but anything is better than nothing. Melton will suffocate without a relief road.”
Can you remember any amusing incidents over the 25 years?
Sir Alan Duncan: “A parish meeting where an 80-year-old female councillor said, ‘We need to form a club to solve this problem and let me tell you all straightaway that I am in the club’. For those of a younger generation, the old phrase ‘I’m in the club’ means ‘I’m pregnant’.”