It’s deeply insulting to say I got the job because I am a woman, says MP Claire
EXCLUSIVE by Gerald Isaaman
It’s an armour-plated world that Claire Perry now lives in. No sooner had she received a surprise phone call from David Cameron with news of preferment than she found herself conveyed to the Ministry of Defence in an armoured vehicle flanked by security men for protection.
Such is the high security that she found herself with only a VIP pass, not a permanent one, and will still be working in her Commons office in her new role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Philip Hammond, who has taken over from the departed Dr Liam Fox.
And despite the added responsibilities she has now, the Tory MP for Marlborough, in the constituency of Devizes, it is an unpaid post – and Claire a somewhat reluctant Iron Maiden helping to control the nation’s defences and the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“I realised there was going to be a mini reshuffle when Liam stood down,” she says. “But I literally had no expectations whatsoever that I would be given a job.”
“That’s partly because being a PPS is not a necessary step in order to get promoted and, frankly, I was quite happy being a busy backbencher looking after the constituency and working on campaigns as I have been doing.”
“So when the first changes came out, I thought that was great. I applauded those who had got their jobs and it was good to see some women getting into prominent positions, very good, that’s fine, I thought.”
And elegantly tall Claire adds: “I don’t know if I was the best candidate for this mini-promotion. I shall certainly give it my best shot. And the suggestion that it has just been done because I am a woman I find deeply insulting.”
“There were five promotions. Three went to women and two went to men. It’s not like it’s a clean sweep. I mean how insulting it is to say so.”
“But that’s just the negative stuff that plays today . I think the right thing about your profession, please forgive me Gerald, is just to ignore it.”
That is hardly an option when the headlines are overflowing with tales of the Tory backbench revolt over Europe, the EU’s brave bid to defeat the Euro crisis and the clash between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over the coalition’s response to last week’s momentous events.
(Separate report to follow: The Tories will take the Euro hard line…).
She recognises that Dr Fox did a “very good job” at the MoD with a strategic defence review that slashed billions off its budget and she refuses to cast aspersions as to the deficiencies that resulted in his resignation following the revelations about his close friendship with Adam Werritty.
She is pleased to be working with Philip Hammond, whom she worked with when he was shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. “It is really a fantastic time to be joining the team,” she insists.
And it is appropriate too since she has 10,500 soldiers in her Devizes constituency, which has kept her involved in military matters, among them her campaign for the armed forces to be fed with British pork instead of cheap Dutch and Danish bacon, which she can now promote from the inside.
Indeed, she is very much a favourite in the local army camps, the more so after her sexual brush in the Commons tearoom with Speaker John Bercow, which she declares was not a barrier to earlier promotion. “They thought it was a hoot,” she says.
Nevertheless, there is a firm clamp on her speaking openly about her new role. “I’ve been told that the enemy uses high technology that can hack into people’s phones,” she reveals. “You have to be very careful about what you say. All the high security protocols have come into play.”