The Diary: Andrew Griffith MP

The director of Number 10's Policy Unit tells us about his return to Downing Street

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Conservative MP Andrew Griffith is seen on February 3, 2022 in London, England.
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Conservative MP Andrew Griffith is seen on February 3, 2022 in London, England.

Prints of Policy

Welcoming Baroness Kate Rock to my Downing Street office for a recent meeting, she had a déjà vu moment on seeing the art on the walls. The half-dozen or so prints have reportedly hung unchanged from when Camilla Cavendish was David Cameron’s director of the Policy Unit back in 2015. Kate recalls helping to choose the prints with Camilla, knowing artist Elisabeth Frink as her neighbour in Dorset. I observe there have been no fewer than four directors rotating through the office since then. If only pictures could talk! 

Slindon – the home of cricket?

To Slindon in my Arundel and South Downs constituency to join parish councillors and residents for the latest planting as part of the wonderful Queen’s Green Canopy project celebrating Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee year. 

Today’s takes place on the 70th day of 2022 to replicate the 70th anniversary of Her accession. Two English oak saplings from Arundel Arboretum are swiftly planted with a commemorative plaque installed, and I am back in the village pavilion being reminded of the credible claim that Slindon has to be the birthplace of cricket. The village menfolk were among some of the earliest players recruited by the Duke of Richmond at nearby Goodwood. Slindon Common formed a naturally well-drained pitch and when the Duke was called away by the King to help suppress the Stuart rebellion in Scotland in the early 1700s, Slindon players formed their own cricket club – arguably England’s first. 

Boundary changes 

The talk of the Commons tea room remains the proposed changes from the Boundary Commission, whose determinations grind slowly onwards over the course of this year. Parliamentary colleagues’ level of interest in the topic correlates highly to their own expected electoral gain or prejudice. My first stand as a member of parliament was against the “mutant algorithm” on housing number targets. The commissioners are performing their task diligently, but they too face a challenging algorithm in trying to create constituencies of 73,000 electors each with a tight tolerance of no more than 5 per cent either way. Factors such as geographic features, accessibility and community ties are supposed to carry weight, but that requires a granular understanding of the local area. 

In West Sussex there is widespread agreement for the proposition that communities either side of the River Arun, which have
been connected since medieval times, must not be cleaved in two. In this most historic of counties it would be unfortunate if the Boundary Commission achieved something that centuries of invading forces were prevented from doing. 

Back to No 10 

Returning to the No 10 operation after my previous tour of duty as the PM’s business adviser, I am struck by how many important elements and faces remain unchanged. It’s been just over two years since the 2019 general election, though that feels like a different era. While the PM’s new team of Steve Barclay, Guto Harri, David Canzini and Samantha Jones bring a calm professionalism to their respective roles, none of us could function without the excellent support team running the Downing Street campus which also includes Numbers 9, 11 and 12. As an early riser, I particularly celebrate that the small but perfectly formed canteen in the basement now operates from 7.30 am. An army marches on its stomach and a well-brewed morning coffee. We can now all do that while getting ahead of whatever the new day brings. 

End of innocence 

There is a desperate sadness to the events in Ukraine. In addition to the sheer brutality of innocent families being shelled with modern weaponry – and indeed Russian parents facing the pointless death of conscripted sons – it closes the door on one of the more uplifting chapters of world history. As an undergraduate, summer vacations were for exploring new democracies that, prior to 1989, had been on the forbidden side of the Iron Curtain. The German rock band Scorpions’ song “Wind of Change” was our anthem as we celebrated with a new generation that revelled in the values of freedom and self-determination flourishing across our continent. As I write, more than 150,000 Brits have offered to provide accommodation for displaced Ukrainians and their children. It’s a brilliant scheme that has demonstrated the PM’s intuition for where the British people are on this issue. What more practical way to help than by harnessing goodwill to unlock that greatest of unused resources – a nation’s spare bedrooms. 

Andrew Griffith MP is the director of the Number 10 Policy Unit 

16th May 2022