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Rising Stars

The 2010 general election saw a huge number of new MPs – and many are already making their mark. Here, 10 of Westminster’s bright young things discuss why they came into politics, what they hope to achieve and how they’re going to do it

 

 

Jesse Norman

Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire

Why did you come into politics?

I entered Parliament at the age of 48, a year older than David Miliband left it, so I guess you could call me the opposite of a career politician. I did it from a conviction that politics was and should always be a vocation and a serious commitment to public service, not a greasy pole or springboard to something else. As human beings, we have a unique capacity to shape our own governance. Politicians have a duty to make these collective decisions, and to explain publicly on what principles they have done so.

I was lucky because as matters turned out I was able to build up a lot of life experience before I became an MP. In the 1980s, I was working on Wall Street, and then ran a charitable project giving away medical and business textbooks and supporting free institutions in Communist Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Later on I was a director at Barclays, but left to do research and teach philosophy at University College London for six years. And I am a life-long volunteer.

This experience – of the private, public and third sectors – has been incredibly useful in Parliament. It shouldn’t be surprising, but experience really does matter in politics.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

I have recently been appointed to the Number 10 Policy Board, which gathers policy ideas and input from across the Conservative parliamentary party, and from other interested sources. Some of the best ideas I have put forward have come from my constituents in Herefordshire.

But Parliament offers many other routes by which to get your voice heard. In my case I ran a long campaign in 2010-11 to reform the Private Finance Initiative, leading to changes which the Treasury estimate have saved the taxpayer £2-£2.5bn. I led the opposition in the Commons to the Government’s plans to elect the House of Lords last year. And this year I published a new biography of the great 18th century statesman Edmund Burke, which lays out much of the historical and intellectual context of compassionate conservatism.

I also sit on the Treasury Committee, which has played a major role in shaping the new supervisory regime for the banks, in scrutinising the Budget and in holding the Bank of England to account.

What is the one thing you would like the Conservative Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?

There is no magic formula for winning the next election. Success will come if we as a party have a clear message; use the talents and energies of our MPs, activists and supporters to the maximum extent; listen carefully to our constituents and recognise their capability and sense; campaign vigorously on the ground; focus on measures like the freeze in petrol duty which keep down the cost of living and put more money in the pockets of working men and women; maintain a broad and inclusive appeal; and keep a sense of humour. Piece of cake, really.

Steve Baker

Conservative MP for Wycombe

Why did you come into politics?

I came into politics because I was fed up with the standard of it and I really wanted to make a difference to how public affairs were conducted. I reached a point where it was either: emigrate, moan, or stand, and I decided I couldn’t bear to sit at home moaning so I would stand rather than emigrate. I was very lucky that two and half years later I was elected to Parliament.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

Well, I’ve taken on the Backbench Policy Committee for public services – and I will be working closely with Graham Brady and with London’s think tanks, and I very much hope that we’ll bring forward some practical ideas for health, education and transport. And I hope that will inform not only what the Government does over the next two years but also the Conservative manifesto. The reason I put myself in that position – I was grateful to the 22 [Committee] for putting me there – was that I realised that we’re never going to balance the books and we’re never going to get lower taxes unless we can manage to provide health, education in particular, and transport at a higher standard for lower costs. Until we’ve done that the budget figures are such that it’s a rather futile exercise trying to balance the books.

What is the one thing you would like the Conservative Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?

We’ve got to take forward the health reforms – the NHS has fallen short of the dream everyone has for it, and that’s just got to be fixed. Now that we’ve unearthed the state of it, we’ve got to make it better – it’s time to say we have to figure out how to get doctors back on call without a producing a mass exodus from the profession, particularly amongst those close to retirement. For me it is about healthcare, as well as the economy, but if it has to be one thing, it should be continuing to sort out the NHS.

Andrea Leadsom

Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire

Why did you come into politics?

I have wanted to be an MP since I was in my early teens – the Cold War was at its height and at my grammar school in Tonbridge the very real threat of a nuclear holocaust was something we talked about in class. I remember thinking that the only way to prevent such a horror was to become a decision maker myself...

The terrible years under Labour – going cap in hand to the IMF, blackouts, bodies unburied due to strikes – followed by the Thatcher years of aspiration and opportunity turned me into a Conservative. My parents set up a furniture shop in Kent, proving to my sisters and me that success and quality of life is the result of hard work and determination. These are values I admire, as are the Christian values of helping your neighbour and your community to the best of your talent.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

As backbenchers we have more time to explore issues and ideas in greater detail than sometimes Government departments are able. Since I was elected in 2010 I have led three specific campaigns on which I aim to influence the leadership – I call them my ‘Three Bs’: Babies, Banks and Brussels...

The ‘Babies’ campaign is about helping families to build secure early relationships with their babies. Believe it or not, your experiences in your first two years of life will determine your lifelong potential as a human being. Post-natal depression, violence, substance abuse all have profoundly damaging impacts on a parent’s ability to form a secure bond with their baby, and this in turn has a massive impact on the outcomes for those babies, and ultimately on the outcomes for our society. Nothing short of a revolution in perinatal care is needed, and I’m determined to see this through. I am leading a cross-party campaign called the ‘1001 Critical Days’ that outlines the change we need to see.

The ‘Banks’ campaign is to bring in full bank account number portability to British banking. This would enable individuals and businesses to move their bank accounts as easily as they change their mobile phone provider, without the need to change bank account details – I believe this would spark fundamental change in banking, bringing in far better customer service, far more competition and a truly 21st century payments infrastructure that would be the envy of the financial world.

The ‘Brussels’ campaign is seeking a detailed renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU. The Eurozone crisis, and the resulting need for fiscal integration within the Eurozone, means that the status quo in the EU is no longer an option. As a non-euro member state, Britain needs to redefine her relationship with the rest of the EU, recognising that our path is now a very different one to that of euro members. I launched the Fresh Start Project in 2011 to research the ‘Options for Change’ and with collaboration from many Conservative colleagues, we have now produced a ‘Manifesto for Change’ that proposes key reforms that, if implemented, will put Britain at the heart of a more competitive, more democratic EU.

I have met with and try to involve Government ministers in all of these campaigns – I am convinced that proposing innovative and well thought through ideas is the best way to influence the leadership.

What is the one thing you would like the Conservative Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?

David Cameron’s policies have already given the Conservatives a great chance of winning in 2015. We are the only mainstream party willing to give the British people a say on Europe, our welfare reforms will change our society for the better, making work pay. Nearly three million people have been taken out of income tax altogether and whilst times have been tough, I think people understand we have taken vital steps to deal with the economic mess left by Labour, rather than foist the debt onto our children’s generation.

The one thing I believe could ensure a Conservative win in 2015 is if we prioritise family policy. Not just helping with childcare costs, but also a new approach to early years intervention, psychotherapeutic support for struggling new families, recognition in the tax system for those who stay home to raise their children, a radical improvement in support for professional childminding, support for grandparents who care for children, lunch clubs during school holidays, longer school days with more sport and extra activities – showing in a tangible way that we really are the party of the family.

Duncan Hames

Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham, PPS to Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council

Why did you come into politics?

It was concerning our environment that I first realised some issues demand more than individual choices and endeavours. The challenge of climate change demands huge changes that can only be achieved with national and international cooperation. And that’s where politics matters.

There was perhaps a time when people — and politicians — thought that the response to this issue could be left for the future. But my generation must accept the urgency and importance of developing sustainable technologies and energy sources.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

It’s been fascinating to see how Government works close-up since being asked to be Nick Clegg’s PPS last September. It’s for me to make sure my Liberal Democrat colleagues know the impact that Nick is having on the Coalition Government’s programme, and that he should know what they think of it.

Of course, I’ve been trying to influence Government policy since well before then. One example of a policy that I and other backbenchers were able to influence for the better was on the mobility component of disability living allowance for care home residents. The Government had initially proposed to withdraw it, but through a campaign involving petitions, questions to the responsible minister and to the Prime Minister, we were able to persuade them to think again. I am very pleased that the ‘mobility component’ will now be retained in the new Personal Independence Payments.

What is the one thing you would like the Liberal Democrats to do in order to win the 2015 election?

The party’s national policy committee, which I chair, is working on the early stages of developing our manifesto for the next general election. The big challenge for all the parties will be to ensure that we do not drift away from the issues that are of greatest concern to the public. As we go about writing our manifesto, we need to conduct a wide-ranging consultation and engage with as many people as possible — whether they’re party members or not.

In opposition, we were probably best-known for our enthusiasm for political and constitutional reforms. Those are certainly important issues, but we must now also show voters that Liberal Democrats are committed to using the levers of Government to tackle the issues that most affect their lives — to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

Dr Julian Huppert

Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge

Why did you come into politics?

I originally became interested in the UN and international human rights issues through a programme called Model United Nations, where school and university groups took part in simulations of UN committee discussions. Gradually, my interest in domestic politics increased, mostly because I felt it was often easier to get changes to happen. I then became a Lib Dem activist as a student in the 1997 elections, helping with both the local elections and the General Election. When I stopped being a student, I was elected onto Cambridgeshire County Council, where I spent eight years, including a period as leader of the opposition.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

I am fortunate to be in a good position to influence the leadership on a range of issues – probably most dramatically leading to the scrapping of the proposed Communications Data Bill, that would have given power to the Home Secretary to force the collection of information on every website that we go to, and everything we do on Facebook or Google. As Co-Chair of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Policy Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities, I have the responsibility to lead for the party – as opposed to the Government – on these key issues. A brief that covers immigration and policing, human rights and legal aid, as well as same sex marriage, is never going to be easy, but I have managed to get some changes through Government.

I also serve as Vice-Chair of our Federal Policy Committee, and on the party’s Manifesto Working Group. Having this level of involvement in the policymaking process means that I can get a fair amount of what I want to see into our policies and the manifesto for 2015.

What is the one thing you would like the Liberal Democrats to do in order to win the 2015 election?

I think we have to be clearer about our core values, and what we are doing to try to deliver on them. Although not everything in Government has been what we would like to see – that’s the nature of coalition – we have achieved some very good things – lifting poorly-paid people out of income tax, a huge rise in apprenticeships and much more – as well as stopping some potentially awful proposals from our Coalition partners, such as their idea of removing housing benefit from the under-25s. We have to be clearer about what we’re trying to do, and what we have done.


Tessa Munt

MP for Wells and PPS to business secretary Vince Cable

Why did you come into politics?

Three reasons. First, my grandfather, Sir Ernest Vasey, worked in the mines at the age of nine, he had one year of education – and he ended up being the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Kenya. He was the founding member of the United Kenya Club, which was the first multi-racial club in Kenya, so he was way ahead of his time. And he had a huge influence on me as a child, most of which I only realise now. He used to say to me: “You can change the world, child – and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t.”

The second thing was I’d seen an MP come and to speak to us at school, and I thought, “That’s the job for me.”

And the third reason was my father saying: “Will you stop shouting at the television and radio, and get off your butt and go and do something about it.” So I did.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

You have to communicate all the time – let people know how you feel and what’s important. We have a very flat structure within the parliamentary party. If you look back to the history of creating a coalition agreement, the democratic process within the party is paramount. And it may be very slow and terribly tedious for other people who aren’t part of the party to put up with us talking to everybody before we make decisions, but actually in the long run it makes a much stronger parliamentary party.

I will also stop people in the corridor and say, do you realise that this is happening, and please could you sort this out for me? I have a role as Vince’s PPS, so I have an additional responsibility to make sure that Vince is aware of what’s going on out there. I take that very seriously.

There comes a freedom with being a bit older. The freedom of not having a huge driving ambition to climb over the pile of bodies to become prime minister is unbelievably liberating – and it means that I can just go about causing trouble where I need to on the part of my constituents. It means that I can pursue the things that I see need to be done.
One of the nicest things about working for Vince is that he is generous as a boss – so when I say to him, “y’know I’m really concerned about this”, he says “would you like to pursue that, and see where we come to?” And there are things that are happening now, which I know were probably pushed by me, and I don’t need to have that shouted all over the papers – it’s the immense level of satisfaction of knowing it was me in my job.

What’s the one thing you would like the Liberal Democrats to do in order to win the 2015 election.

Win.

We should push harder for an increased tax threshold within this Parliament. We should be going for the minimum wage – and we might want to look at how we spend money on big projects and whether in fact we couldn’t spend that money more wisely. For example, HS2 won’t benefit my constituents at all so wouldn’t it be better to stick some of that money into some local transport all over the country and get people going where they want to go.

Anas Sarwar

Labour MP for Glasgow Central and deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Why did you come into politics?

I am a big believer in public service and it was my Labour values and the party’s commitment to fairness, equality and social justice that appealed to me and brought me into politics. I believe that politics, if done right, gives people the opportunity to turn their values into positive action. It must be our primary responsibility to try and build a country where people can make the most of their lives, regardless of their circumstances.

I have been campaigning for the Labour Party for as long as I can remember but two key events shaped my politics. The first was a visit to Palestine when I was 12, where I saw the plight of the Palestinian people and the dire poverty of young children, the same age as me, struggling to survive in a war-torn country, with little hope of changing their own circumstances.
The second was when, at the age of 16, I was part of a campaign to save Glasgow’s shipyards. The local pride and dedication of the people in that campaign spoke volumes to me and taught me that behind the cut and thrust of politics are real people and families. This is something I think the current Government doesn’t realise, that behind every failed policy and economic ‘blip’ is a tragedy for a family somewhere in the country. I think they forget that outside the Westminster bubble, politics has a human face.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

By being true to my Labour values. As deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I am determined that the party recovers from the defeats in 2010 and 2011 by ensuring that our priorities match the people’s across the country.
As co-ordinator of Scottish Labour’s referendum campaign, I am focused on demonstrating to the Scottish people that we are stronger together, with our other UK partners. Sadly we have two Governments focusing on their own minority obsessions, but what the country needs is not just a debate about constitutional change but an offer of real social and economic change.

What is the one thing you would like the Labour Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?
anas sarwar The first priority for me is obviously to work flat out to ensure we win the referendum next year, so Scotland can play its part in returning a Labour government in 2015.

History has shown us that when the Labour movement unites we can deliver real social justice right across the UK. It was a Scotsman who founded our party; a Welshman who delivered the National Health Service; an Englishman the Welfare State. I believe that to win in 2015 we must put these values at the heart of our offer at the next election.

Tom Greatrex

MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change

Why did you come into politics?

I joined the Labour Party in the People’s Republic of Royal Tunbridge Wells ahead of the 1992 General Election – the triggers for me had been a combination of the poll tax, which led to peaceful and well attended protests in the town centre; a natural and I hope healthy scepticism of the political outlook of many around me; and a visit from Sir John Stanley – still in Parliament today – to my sixth form that pushed me into joining a political party. I had always been conscious that while I had benefited from attending a grammar school, there were many others I had been at primary school with who were effectively written off by the system at age 11. Those experiences brought me into the Labour Party as an activist in a constituency we had never held, and were highly unlikely to win (even in the landslide election of 1997).

What started as a bloody minded sense of rebellion against the very Conservative nature of many people as I grew up, quickly became a genuine desire to see the government replaced and a strong belief in the ability of an incoming government to make lasting changes that would improve the lives of many. I decided to stand as an elected politician, after time working both inside and outside the Westminster bubble, for the self-interested reason of wanting to see the best for my family and my local community and believing that I could contribute to that in Parliament.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

I want to see the Labour Party in the strongest possible position at the time of the next general election, and that includes ensuring our policy proposals not only resonate with key voters in marginal seats but also reflect the reality of the challenges of day to day life for very many people living in all parts of the UK, and how those conditions can be improved. The leadership of my party understands this dual imperative well – it is exactly what One Nation Labour is about, and it is what politicians who are serious about changing Britain should be talking about. I would hope to influence my party on the importance of continuing to get out of the Westminster comfort zone and out and about around the UK – to campaign, to listen, to discuss and to engage in all parts of the UK.

What is the one thing you would like the Labour Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?

I expect the 2015 general election to be closely fought. I find very little enthusiasm in the country for either of the Coalition parties, but it is not enough to just not be the Government to win an election. Labour are setting out an agenda towards the general election that demonstrates a determination to stand up to vested interests and to stand up for people. I want to see, and be part of, the Labour Party articulating that vision clearly, confidently and consistently but also with verve and imagination – taking the fight to the Conservatives and to the country.

Shabana Mahmood

Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood and Shadow Minister for Universities and Science

Why did you come into politics?

I was born into a Labour family, and so politics and Labour politics in particular has always been a part of my life, and I’ve enjoyed political activism from a young age. But coming into politics myself was something I only pursued when the chance came to represent the area that I grew up in. In this respect I think that “becoming a politician” is deeply personal. I am passionate about where I was born and brought up; being a Brummie is the core of my identity, and for me the opportunity of being a politician is to be able to fight for my area, my community and my city – so that the people I grew up with, their children, their families, can get on in life and succeed.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

My experience of grassroots campaigning in the last three years has taught me that all too often for ordinary people politics is something that is done to them rather than with them and for them. I think what we really need is to bring people more into the process – to empower them to get things done themselves and to successfully challenge poor performance where it occurs. Sometimes it seems that systems of service delivery are set to up to keep their inner workings secret from the very people they are supposed to serve. I’d like to see a concerted effort to involve residents in a more meaningful way in the monitoring of public service delivery as the best means of holding service providers to account.
What is the one thing you would like the Labour Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?

My constituency has the highest rate of unemployment in the country so I would like to see a commitment around a jobs guarantee, particularly for young people. I think this is the only way we can avoid a “lost generation” which is not only a tragedy for those unfortunate enough to be among their number, but frankly, for the country as a whole it doesn’t come cheap. And related to the jobs agenda, I would also like to see a commitment that we would use Government’s power as the UK’s largest consumer to put a rocket booster under apprenticeships policy – by using public procurement to significantly boost the number of places available.

Dan Jarvis

Labour MP for Barnsley Central and Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport

Why did you come into politics?

I came into politics because I believe in the value of public service. It was public service that took me into the Army and it was public service which kept me there, particularly during some difficult times in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Being the Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central has given me a very special opportunity to serve a community that I have great pride in. It is a real privilege to represent my constituents and it is a responsibility which I take very seriously. I will never forget that it is the people of Barnsley who have given me the opportunity to serve.

How do you hope to influence the leadership?

Ha! I’m sure that the leadership of my party will have lots of people trying to influence and I don’t think Ed will be short of people who are offering to give him advice, so I’m not going to go there! What I will try to do is the very best job I can for the people of Barnsley, as a shadow minister and as a member of the Labour Party.

What is the one thing you would like the Labour Party to do in order to win the 2015 election?

I think it is incredibly important that we reach out and connect with people who feel disenfranchised from politics. Apathy is a huge opponent for all of the mainstream parties, albeit more and more people are getting involved in single issue politics – just look at how many people signed the 38 Degrees petition to save the NHS.

I believe that as Labour politicians we have to get out there and re-engage and enthuse people about the potential of politics; we have to persuade them that voting does make a difference, and that it makes a difference who you vote for. We need to persuade them that politics and politicians are there to improve their lives. We need to do all that we can to rebuild the faith and trust that has been lost over recent years.

There are a number of ways we can do this. In my own constituency I dedicate a lot of time to going out and talking with people – meeting the public. I’ve had some amazing debates on the doorstep! And nationally, I am working on Labour’s People’s Politics Inquiry, led by Angela Eagle, which aims to reach out and talk to people about Parliament, its accessibility and why the public has been turned off politics.

I think that only by demonstrating to the public that we’re on their side and that we’re doing everything we can to improve their lives will we stand any chance of stemming the tide (before it becomes a tidal wave) of disillusionment. That’s the challenge.

 

 


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