Nobody could accuse the Minister for Disabled People with lacking determination. It is Chloe Smith’s determination, coupled with a pleasant self-assurance, that has made her stand out at Westminster.

The 39-year old is now at the Department for Work and Pensions. She recalls being in hospital alone, unable to have family visit because of Covid restrictions, while she was undergoing treatment for breast carcinoma.

Reacting to the memory – in addition to the painful loss of two friends – she struggles to keep her composure and asks for a brief break.

The hospital isolation was a necessary cruelty of the pandemic that will be familiar to millions – and for many continues today. 

However, in her case, she was given the all-clear by the summer and then was struck by the death of James Brokenshire, former Secretary to Northern Ireland, from cancer at 53 years old, and then, one week later, by Sir David Amess’s death, which left her ‘just distraught’. 

Both were friends and colleagues. She spoke to Mr Brokenshire shortly prior to his death.

Chloe Smith MP in her office. She refuses to change her own habits and will not quit social media, where so many politicians face a cesspit of abuse. 'I don't plan to change how I do my job,' she says

Chloe Smith MP in the office. She won’t change her habits and won’t quit social media, where many politicians are subject to abuse. She states, “I don’t plan to change the way I do my job.”

An image she posted on Twitter this month to celebrate recovering from breast cancer

A photo she posted to Twitter this month in celebration of her recovery from breast cancer

Her emotions are clear, but she is determined not to let her emotions get in the way of her job. She expressed hope Sir David’s funeral would be a wake up call to address violence threats and threats that have been keeping’really nice people’ from public service.

She said that politics is becoming more aggressive. ‘Frankly, everyone can see that. It doesn’t take a cold-blooded crime of murder to see that, although it does bring it into stark relief.

She won’t change her habits and refuses to quit social media. This is where many politicians are subject to abuse. She states, “I don’t plan to change the way I do my job,”

After her cancer diagnosis just over a year ago, the mother of two endured seven months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery – and worked throughout. 

Since her recovery, she has worked hard to encourage others to look out for early signs of the disease. Her interview with The Mail on Sunday coincides perfectly with Cancer Awareness Month.

She returned from recess with a packed Ministerial journal and a febrile atmosphere in Westminster, following Sir David’s death. Like many, she’s been battling a heavy cold – but has pressed ahead with engagements.

Her children were three and one when her cancer was discovered. She is extremely straight-forward about managing her illness, work, pregnancy, and two toddlers.

She described how she discovered a lump while taking a shower and said with typical understatement that it had been a ‘pretty strange turn of events’. She said she felt’very fortunate’ to have received prompt treatment. She also added that it was likely because it was the beginning of the pandemic, and the backlog hadn’t built up.

She is worried that people might not be able to come forward due to the huge NHS waiting lists. She insists that an ‘enormous’ amount of funding is being used to fund the health service in order to conduct diagnostic work and to allow GPs access to patients face-to face.

James Brokenshire

Sir David Amess

She was devastated by the deaths of James Brokenshire, former Secretary of Northern Ireland, from cancer at 53 years old, and Sir David Amess’s death at 53.

She shared her experiences with Health Minister Sajid Javid. She added that she had a ‘first instinct’ after her diagnosis to use her experience to improve the lives of others.

She is channeling her experiences into her Ministerial brief with a new ability for people to relate to those who have to tell employers that they have received a serious diagnoses.

She believes that workplaces should do more to make offices accessible to disabled workers to help them reach their goal of a million more people with disabilities in the workforce. She will soon release tools kits for employers to help them do more. She will also select a Minister from every department of the Government as a disability champion’.

During her own diagnosis, she found support in the company of’strong fighters’ in Parliament. This was also true for Mr Brokenshire, whom she first worked for when he was Northern Ireland Secretary.

‘James was always cheerful, I hope that was some comfort to the family. She says that she always had the same attitude as him, and that she last spoke with him just before his death in October 7.

It is, however the positive side of democracy that she hopes will prevail, and the work of MPs like Sir David or Mr Brokenshire. “It’s a terrible paradox, but if democracy is able to come out stronger from it, then that would be great.

She is clear that tech giants must do more to combat online abuse. When asked if she would support the so-called “David’s Law” to crack down online anonymity, she replied that it was something she’d be interested in looking into further.

She says that the solution is new legislation and technology companies doing more. “Clearly, there needs to be a little bit of partnership here. We are all in this together, don’t we? This is the essence of democracy.

She acknowledged that Brexit and Covid have caused ‘passions to run high’ in recent years, indicating a heightened intensity of politics, but added: ‘None is an excuse for being poor. Ms. Smith was chased down by angry constituents following a MP surgery. 

She recalls the incident and says, “I’ve been an MP from 2009 to this day.” I’ve seen things that make it very sad about how people interact. I’ve also seen things that have me shocked.

What can be done? She was a former Constitution Minister and was involved in the forthcoming Elections Bill, which will include provisions on abuse at polling stations. She also collected stories about the types of abuse that MPs are subject to.

Although many of them were difficult, she doesn’t want them to discourage good people from getting into politics. “I would like to send a loud and clear message that public service should not be fearful. We have a great tradition in this nation and we need to work hard to protect it.