Where Are They Now? Sir Julian Brazier
Sir Julian Brazier | portrait by Tracy Worrall
Conservative MP for Canterbury 1987 - 2017
Sir Julian Brazier began his parliamentary career in 1987 under the formidable tenure of Margaret Thatcher, and he was unlucky enough to face her wrath on first setting foot in Parliament.
He entered the House determined to prevent the construction of the Channel Tunnel – a project strongly opposed by his constituents in Canterbury. The prime minister, however, supported the plans.
“Thatcher was not very pleased,” Brazier says. “She didn’t talk to me for months.”
As Brazier’s career continued, he realised it was impossible to win every battle: “I was trying to achieve stuff, and I was project-orientated all the way through. On the rare occasion I achieved something, and knew it wouldn’t have happened without me, it was immensely rewarding.”
His most ambitious campaign was to return ownership of the armed forces’ married quarters estate to the Ministry of Defence, after ministers decided to sell and lease back much of its service family accommodation to Annington Homes in 1996.
The MoD has finally this year announced its intention to seek full ownership of the estate, and Brazier says: “I had a real moment of pride on that. The option wouldn’t have existed if we hadn’t got the lease extended.”
Across 30 years in Parliament, Brazier was witness to many changes but remained determined to stick by what he believed in.
I have never yet woken up on a Saturday morning and thought, ‘Bugger, no surgery today!’
“The two biggest changes were the working hours and the arrival of email and social media,” he says, adding that many MPs felt exhausted and overworked until Tony Blair introduced a 7pm finishing time in the Commons.
Brazier says he has “no regrets” about being an ardent backer of Brexit, and that he was worried the single currency may have been “imposed” on the United Kingdom.
Referring to his belief that abortion is “profoundly wrong”, which he ascribes to his Catholic faith, Brazier says: “[My Catholicism] was a big part of why I wanted to be an MP, because the Catholic Church is about what you’re putting back and what you’re doing for others.”
The former MP is now president of the Catholics in the Conservative Party group, a networking organisation that encourages Catholics to join the party and holds events on Catholic social teachings.
After losing his seat to Labour at the 2017 general election, Brazier became the non-executive chairman of a counter terrorism security company, and the non-executive director of a virtual reality startup.
He enjoys having a “mixed portfolio” admits there are parts of life as an MP that he misses, and aspects he is happy to have put behind him.
“My ability to influence events is gone,” he says. “I’d like to think I’m a caring person, but I’m ashamed to say I have never yet woken up on a Saturday morning and thought, ‘Bugger, no surgery today!’”
Brazier confesses he was “overconfident” in 2017 when the country went to the polls.
“My constituency voted for Remain and students turned out to vote like they never had before,” he says.
“I spent a large amount of time campaigning – unwisely – in other seats. I was complacent, but you live and learn. I don’t waste any time on the mistakes I have made.”
Through the inevitable ups and downs of a political career, Brazier is thankful for the support of his three sons and wife, Katharine, who he describes as an “absolute saint”.
While determined not to dwell on the past, Brazier’s advice to the next generation of MPs appears sound: “Work hard, and don’t become an MP if you don’t have something you feel so strongly about it keeps you awake at night, because you have to have that commitment to make it work."
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