Coffee House

‘Newsnight offered me a goodbye interview with Jeremy Paxman. I didn’t return the call.’

9 October 2013

5:24 PM

9 October 2013

5:24 PM

I have been very touched this week by the messages of goodwill I’ve had after revealing my decision to step down from being a minister.

I’m neither the first nor the last MP to enjoy my constituency work deeply.  Indeed, my predecessor in my own seat was well-regarded for being often obstinate in Westminster and a great constituency MP at home.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to contribute to my country, in three years as a whip and minister. I whipped the Welfare Reform bill through Parliament;  at the Treasury I negotiated detailed decommissioning contracts with the oil and gas industry, to open up billions of pounds of economic investment;  and at the Cabinet Office I have helped save £10bn of taxpayers’ money from wasteful government spend while taking five bills through Parliament in a year, including one that changed the laws on Royal succession to allow girls to take their place.


It’s not all been easy.  I couldn’t help but laugh this week when Newsnight rang offering me a ‘sensible’ interview with Jeremy Paxman about my next move.  I didn’t return the call.

I was only 27 when I was lucky enough to be elected. I’m glad now to see many talented Conservative colleagues joining the government while it is time for a change for me. I want to concentrate again on the original part of my job: being Norwich North’s MP.  My constituents know the high standards and the hard work that I ask of myself as their MP and I enjoy fulfilling it for them.

I also want to do more to communicate with a new generation of younger voters about public participation.  Tip O’Neill’s insight that ‘all politics is local’ is in my mind, because this aim builds on local work.  I have launched a community campaign in my city to halve Norwich’s youth unemployment (see  We’ve already helped hundreds of young people into work in eight months, through signing up local firms to a pledge to make places available to the next generation of talent.  We lack no ambition:  we want to get 1,000 young people into work.  But we do it one by one, and we start local.

This has given me the most reward of much of my working life.  I was recently walking through a Norwich park at dusk and passed some teenagers hanging around.  One called out after me and you don’t usually expect the best in that situation.  But he surprised me with: ‘By the way, you’re doing a really great job for the city.’  Now that’s ambition:  to demonstrate one by one that politics still works, and that young people can be at the heart of it.  That’s exactly the work I want to do more of.

Chloe Smith is the Conservative MP for Norwich North and stepped down as a Cabinet Office minister this week.

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Show comments
  • Ringstone

    Ah, timely reminder that Gideon is a grade A1 slimeball, sending the office junior in to bat when he was in deep trouble over fuel duty instead of taking the heat himself.

  • MrDDavies

    It seems the BBC or Paxman have come to realise that most of their interviews with non-Labour politicians do not fall under the heading of ‘sensible’. About time.

  • tiredoflondon

    I think this is probably the right move for Chloe Smith. She won Norwich North from Labour when they were at a low ebb, and then won it again when they were even lower. Although she’s a good MP, it’s going to be tough for her to win it next time and it would have been very embarrassing for her and the Tories for her to lose it having devoted the vast majority of her time to her Ministerial brief for the majority of the Parliament.
    Best possible decision by whoever made it to go back now for 18 months to just being the MP for Norwich North, and fight as hard as she can to win it. It looks more humble and understanding of what her constituents would want and gives her opponent less of a stick to beat her with. Then if she does win, she can think about going back into Government (or Shadow Government, obviously) still young, but yet an experienced pair of hands. It’s a long term strategy and I think it’s the right one.

  • rtj1211

    What did those whose job it is to judge you and those who had to carry on after you left the field of battle have to say about your PERFORMANCE?

    That’s the test of how well you did, not you doing what politicians do by drowning in self-publicity.

  • Stan moorcroft

    That was a party political broadcast on behalf of Chloe Smith and the Conservative Party. And the news value of this item was?

  • David John Scott

    Well well well … can’t take he warmth, never mind the heat? If this article was worth reading (and it didn’t tell Me much) then what was there to fear from Paxman? Stepping down (or being passed over) is a huge opportunity because the victim has nothing to lose. Silence suggests fear, and Paxman can smell fear.

    Presumably Norwich’s “gain” will be transcended by Westminster’s net gain at the culling of a duck.

    • telemachus

      “Paxman can smell fear.”
      Is that the same fear that made him shy away from the Savile debacle on his program

      • David John Scott

        Even a starving rotweiler does’t bite the hand that feeds.

      • telemackus

        In this we agree, which is why Milibank and Balls stay away from him. Did not stop the robot Reeves making a complete idiot of herself though squawking away like a demented parrot.

  • chris_xxxx

    With a majority of 3901 in 2010, and with the arrival of more East Europeans, I expect UKIP to have a good chance of gaining your seat in 2015.

  • Colonel Mustard

    I can’t help feeling Ms Smith that that sounds all very corporate. Like the CV of an upper middle management ‘Head of’ in the finance industry. Should we really be celebrating the number of Bills whipped through Parliament and the speed of their passage, as though it is a sausage factory measured on the productivity of its legislation? Does the phrase ‘quality not quantity’ mean anything at all to modern politicians?

    I don’t doubt your sincerity but perhaps representation needs more emphasis than management and certainly management speak.

  • Rockin Ron

    In about 18 months time Chloe Smith will disappear. In this article, as in her Newsnight interview, she has not had the courage to be honest and say that she resigned because she knew she was going to be sacked.

    From that realisation flows the sudden love for constituency work, which didn’t seem to have such appeal when she was a Minister. So, we have a duplicitous air head, with little experience but lots of PR spin – no wonder she did so well. Soon to be political history.

  • fathomwest

    Madam, The youth in the car park could have been sarcastic, of course.
    I am of the belief that people should not be approved as candidates for Parliament without experience of life in a career and never before the age of 49.

    • starfish

      yes, after all those 49+ year olds have done sooooo well haven’t they?
      the problem was she wasn’t an identikit politician

      • Wessex Man

        I thought that was the problem, she is an identikit, along with all the politicians elected over the last thirty years, most of whom have never had a real job and are ‘guided’ by civil servants but there you go, I could be wrong!

      • Colonel Mustard

        It is more a passing of generations thing than an age thing per se. We are now seeing the children of hippies rising to late middle age and their children enjoying the passing down of power to ever younger politicians.

  • toco10

    How refreshing to hear some honest and positive views for a change.I hope you will be back at the centre of Government with the full support of your constituents but in the meantime I am sure most of us wish you every success.

    • Chris lancashire


  • CharlietheChump

    Chloe, All the very best for the future

  • Denis_Cooper

    Well, according to the 2011 census in your total population of 132500 you had 6.1% “non-British white groups”:

    That works out as over 8000, and maybe that is part of the reason why you have 2000 young people registered as unemployed:

    But what could you, a mere Tory MP and minister, do about an influx into your constituency of people from elsewhere in the EU, except to do nothing about the coming influx from Romania and Bulgaria and vote for more of the same from Croatia?

  • Span Ows

    Good for you Chloe, you know exactly how the interview would go: they would probe for anti Conservative comment, when/if none forthcoming revert to blinkered attack mode.

    • dalai guevara

      did the other (fat) lady sing?
      at least she attended

  • telemachus

    Now Chloe, just why did you step down

    “Ms Smith has most recently been leading the controversial lobbying bill, which has drawn criticism from a number of charities which warn the proposals could hamper their work.”

    • Span Ows

      For ‘Charities’ read Labour stuffed pseudo-lobby attack club on BBC speed dial.

    • alabenn

      She has just said why you cretin, while the Paxman interview was not her best day it was not as some fools on here suggest a career ending event.
      Paxman is an overrated gobshite, he has found his true level on University Challenge which he does very well.

      • MrDDavies

        Paxman is almost as obnoxious on University Challenge as he is everywhere else. Bring back Bamber Gasgoine.

    • telemackus

      She stepped down because she would have been fired if she stayed. At least she had the courage to do so unlike those idiots Byrne, Twiggy and Murphy. By the way, wasn’t Twiggy someone you thought was doing a great job? How come Milibank doesn’t agree with you?