Winchester MP Steve Brine notches up four years at Westminster

Steve Brine visits government minister Greg Barker to lobby on behalf of Winchester residents

Steve Brine visits government minister Greg Barker to lobby on behalf of Winchester residents

First published in News

TIME was short and there was a babbling sea of French tourists blocking the Whitehall pavement.

But they were no match for Steve Brine.

The Honourable Member politely, yet deftly, darted through them, ensuring he was safely installed behind Ian Duncan-Smith for the Commons debate with seconds to spare.

Winchester is well used to its MP deciding which dog has the waggiest tale at summer fetes, but what the devil does he get up to in Westminster?

The Chronicle decided to find out, tottering along in Mr Brine’s wake for a day as he steamed down a warren of wooden-panelled corridors, popped into debates, attended committees, ate an official breakfast, ate an official dinner, took tea with constituents, visited a minister, signed correspondence, and regularly steeled himself to peer into various in-boxes where a deluge of fresh emails invariably awaited him.

The 40-year-old’s main aim when he was elected to Parliament for the first time in 2010 was to establish himself as a constituency MP.

This, he concedes, meant forging his own path as “there’s no handbook, training or induction — there’s nothing”, adding: “It takes a while to find your way round here for starters.”

In truth, newcomers receive sparse assistance beyond being issued with a laptop, email address and a pass.

However, four years in and Mr Brine’s now well into his stride, relishing constituency case work victories, and peering over glasses balanced towards the end of his nose in a manner worthy of Yes Minister.

He’s a member of the Justice Select Committee, chair of the All-Party Breast Cancer Group, and a Vice- Chair of the All-Party Cycling Group.

“The pace is quicker than I expected,” he admits, and I suspect he’s not talking about the cycling.

We trotted to Prime Minister’s Questions, finding the Commons filled to the brim with smirking, roaring politicians who, when not trying to verbally harpoon members of the opposition, swiftly returned to the pressing matter of phone messaging.

Now an established player of the parliamentary game, Mr Brine always ensures he sits on the bench right behind Cameron: “I get there early,” he says.

It is his involvement in the All- Party Breast Cancer Group of which he seems noticeably proud.

Last year he chaired a month-long parliamentary inquiry into the disease in older age.

One of the resultant report’s key recommendations called for sustained awareness campaigns about breast cancer in the over-70s, which is already being implemented with the national media campaign Be Clear on Cancer.

“Whether I’m re-elected or dismissed next year I have this,” he confides, reflectively.

His role involves a yearly visit to Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister on the Breast Cancer Group’s activities.

It’s a subject he infers Cameron is genuinely interested in — and he says the two get on well. But that’s not always been the case.

Early in his Westminster career, Mr Brine riled Downing Street twice by failing to follow a three-line whip on votes on a European Referendum (he voted in favour of one) and the Lords Reform Bill (he voted against it).

He was warned there would be consequences — and there were.

He was left loitering on the back- benches, only joining the government as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning, last October.

He has no regrets: “I knew it would cost me a chance but it was the right thing to do — and I think Winchester liked that. They appreciate that I have an independent mind.

“Although it was a low point to vote against Cameron and we have had our differences, I have got to know him really well in the last year, and think he’s a thoroughly decent man who loves the country and knows what he believes in.”

Mr Brine swears he’s exactly the same person in London as Hampshire, but I disagree, inferring a downright steely side as he visits Gregory Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, to intervene on behalf of Winchester residents whose homes were flooded in February.

Sitting between a jaunty ‘Save the Planet’ cushion, and the obligatory Tory politician’s picture of themselves with Margaret Thatcher, Mr Brine has a brief, quick-fire — and ultimately fruitful — interchange with Mr Barker, securing extra grant money for some of those in Littleton, Headbourne Worthy and Kings Worthy whose septic tanks were rendered useless by the massive rise in groundwater.

Before I have time to so much as hoover up a biscuit, we’re back pounding along Whitehall, dodging tourists before coming face-to-face with a somewhat wan Michael Heseltine.

Mr Brine himself may sometimes look weary — he admits to working relentlessly — but he certainly possesses resilience, not to mention a sincere and earnest zest for his job.

His day kicked off with an early- morning ride to the Dutch embassy and ended with a late-night trawl through the hundreds of work emails.

He, in fact, paused just once — at 7am. Hurrying through Westminster Hall in the soft morning sunshine, he suddenly realised he was the only person in the huge 1,000-year-old building in which Guy Fawkes was tried and royalty have lain in state.

Rendered awestruck, he stopped still to take it all in.

And then the lycra-clad legs strode on once more.

Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

9:22am Wed 23 Jul 14

Jimtiddlypom says...

Please tell me this is meant to be parody.
Please tell me this is meant to be parody. Jimtiddlypom
  • Score: 7

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree