John Penrose MP...

PUBLISHED: 10:06 03 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:31 24 May 2010

John Penrose

John Penrose

I WENT to meet the year 5 pupils at Castle Batch primary school last week. I'd had a very well-written letter from one of them who wanted to meet her local MP, and it turned into a full-on interview with the entire year group

I WENT to meet the year 5 pupils at Castle Batch primary school last week. I'd had a very well-written letter from one of them who wanted to meet her local MP, and it turned into a full-on interview with the entire year group. They were a lively and thoughtful group, and the questions came thick and fast. Funnily enough, the most difficult question was whether I'd met anyone famous. I had to confess that, although I'm about 20 feet from Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Questions most weeks and have asked him several questions about local health and dentistry, we've never exactly chatted. The same goes for people like Gordon Brown, Jack Straw or John Prescott too. Part of it, of course, depends on whether someone is in the same political party as you. There are lots of cross-party friendships in parliament, but you naturally spend more time with people who are on your own team. And the surprising thing is how some household names are different from their public image, while others are the same. Ann Widdecombe is much smaller and quieter than you expect, for example, but she's absolutely electric when she speaks. Ken Clarke is exactly the way he seems on TV; relaxed and clever, with his cigar and Hush Puppies to the fore. William Hague is measured and cerebral about foreign policy, but could have made a living as a stand-up comedian if he wasn't in politics.In the end, in a slightly desperate attempt to come up with a famous name, I told the pupils at Castle Batch that at least I knew David Cameron. They weren't impressed. Apparently, David hasn't been around long enough to make much of a mark with people who won't be voting until 2015. Maybe I should let him know?

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