Nadhim Zahawi, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer and a contender to become the next Prime Minister, wasn’t even an MP when he asked me to work for him.
That was in 2010 and he had just been selected as the Conservative candidate for Stratford-on-Avon, replacing sitting MP John Maples who unexpectedly stepped down through ill health, leaving the local Tories with very little time to find someone to fight the upcoming general election.
I was a senior officer of the Conservative Association, responsible for communications. I didn’t support Nadhim when, at a hastily assembled selection meeting in a school hall, members considered a short list of six would-be MPs. I was committed to another candidate, a friend.
Nadhim won, I think, on the third ballot. He was charismatic, very assured and fluent but based on his performance at the meeting, I certainly didn’t judge him to be Cabinet or prime minister material. What do I know?
A few days after his selection, Nadhim asked for my help. I wrote all the party’s local election literature and he wanted me to write the local elements of his publicity material (a PR agency wrote the national stuff).
Of course, I agreed. And during the election campaign I was busy producing leaflets and other materials, and also handling enquiries from the local press.
After the election, with Nadhim comfortably and unsurprisingly elected in what had always been an ultra-safe Conservative seat, the question was whether I would continue with my (unpaid) role or whether he would include a communications person in his new Westminster team.
When we discussed it, he told me: “We work well together. I would like us to continue to do so.”
I worked (still unpaid) for Nadhim for several months – writing press releases for the local and regional media, getting quotes from him when journalists asked for comments on constituency issues and ghost-writing a monthly column on his work at Westminster for the local papers.
That was fascinating. For example, I wrote about Nadhim attending a meeting of Tory MPs at which David Cameron asked them to endorse his decision to form a coalition group with the LibDems (he supported it). In another column, he described his feelings before giving his maiden Parliamentary speech (he had to sit in the Commons chamber for several hours waiting for the Speaker to call him).
Then, unfortunately I had to stand down for health reasons.
Looking back, I thoroughly enjoyed working for Nadhim who was a good ‘boss’. He was unfailingly polite, very accessible, listened, accepted advice, yet was clear about what he wanted, and never slow to utter praise for a job he considered to be well done. And now, several years on, we watch and wait.