I’m Anne Jenkin (nee Strutt). I became a Conservative Member of the Lords on 27th January. I started working in the House of Commons as a secretary to various MPs in 1977, so the Westminster Village is very much my home. I come from a political family – three of my grandparents were in the House of Lords, and two of them in the Commons as well. I have spent the past few years campaigning for and encouraging more women (Conservative in my case) to become Members of Parliament. After the 2005 general election we still had only 9% of the parliamentary party. Bad for the Conservative Party but also bad for the credibility of politics as a whole. We have gone from 17 to 49 at the election last year, but there is a long way to go. My grandmother was the only Conservative woman MP elected in 1945, and her father as a Liberal MP introduced the first women’s suffrage bill in 1907, so without really realising it, I have a family history in this area. You can read more about my views on women in politics in my Maiden Speech which I made on 3rd March.
I was awarded my peerage for charitable work as well as political and I hope to use my role in the Lords to draw attention to causes I get steamed up about. I’m actively involved with five or six charities in different sectors – which brings me to my charitable challenge where I’m taking part in Live Below the Line from 2-6 May in which I’ll be living on £1 a day to raise money for the charity Restless Development. They do brilliant work training and supporting young people (a much under-utilised resource) in the developing world for very little cost – real value for money which appeals to me. I am now a patron.
I have set my target for £5k and am very close to achieving that thanks to the wonderful support of many generous friends. The campaign was initiated by the Global Poverty Project and I am delighted to be on their Advisory Board, together with Lord McConnell who initiated the House of Lords debate on Extreme Poverty in the Developing World which I participated in last Thursday.
The campaign appeals to me because I am by nature a frugal and careful shopper and cook and I am interested to see how I can stretch the budget – but it is also relevant to the cause we are supporting. Anyone can run the marathon (only joking! I could no more do that than fly to the moon), but living below the line for five days will actually bring home to those of us who are participating how people who live on a pound every single day have very little choice in their lives. If their child is ill, they have to choose between eating, or getting medicine and going to bed hungry.
So, I’ll be having porridge for breakfast as I do every day, but made with water and without the usual seeds and delicious stewed fruit. Filling but very boring!
For the three days in the middle of the week I’ve volunteered to make lunch and to run a soup kitchen in the House of Lords for anyone participating in the challenge who works in the Palace of Westminster. The Lord Speaker has kindly allowed us to use the River Room kitchen (hopefully no health and safety issues). So far there are five peers, a cross party group – Lord (Jack) McConnell, former First Minister for Scotland (who I first ran into in a Scottish TV studio in 1987 when I contested Glasgow Provan for the Conservative Party. Not a happy experience!); the Lord Speaker; Baroness Morris of Bolton and Baroness (Judith) Jolly and I hope others in Parliament may join in and turn up – but let me know first, portion control is crucial.
I spent about 2 hours in Tesco last week, putting things into and out of the trolley, trying to work out where to save the odd pence or two to stretch it further. Fine as a one off, but imagine having to work out every single penny every time you go shopping. I was thrilled to find four HUGE potatoes (600g each) for a pound which will go a long way.
Lunch tomorrow will consist of soup for 11.5p per portion – recipe as follows.
1kg bag of frozen mixed vegetables 65p; 2 stock cubes 2p; half enormous potato 13p; one onion 10p; can of baked beans 25p; 10 grams lentils 10p.
Two slices of cheap Tesco bread (2p per slice) with very cheap own brand cheese spread (4p) and a tomato 3p (got another good deal at the market 40 tomatoes for £1.20) and finish off with custard (two packets at 6p each) and half a banana. So reasonably nutritious and I hope filling, but it has been time consuming planning it and this is only day one. Imagine having to plan like this every day?
There will be one dinner where I have to be out (a monthly MPs’ wives dining club as my husband is the MP Bernard Jenkin), and I’ll have a glass of tap water instead of eating which will help to raise awareness which is a large part of the campaign.
Otherwise instead of the usual busy week, I’ve planned a very quiet one! (apart from various media appearances to promote the campaign).
I’ll hopefully be updating you all on my progress this week – watch this space and let me know if you too are taking part in the challenge…