I want to start by talking about politics. What was the draw for you and why did you get into politics in the first place?

"I don’t know whether mine’s a normal way or not. You know, at school, I guess I was quite interested in current affairs and other things but, you know, not really, and at university, I really wasn’t involved in politics at all. I was, sort of, I had some interest. I was always in interested in how we were governed, I guess, like everybody when you start, late teenagers at school/university, start to think about how a country is governed, how you want to see it governed, and what’s the best way. That really interested me but I didn’t really get involved in active politics in any way shape or form until after I had left university. There was a general election fairly quickly after I had left, or at the time I was leaving university, and I just did a little bit of help locally and then I suddenly got involved in very much the local politics, which was more the voluntary side of the Conservative Party at the time and I guess I had a job, I played a lot of sport and my other hobby, I guess, was, politics but I guess politics became more and more important to me and I became more and more involved and I was running someone else’s election campaign and I was at some meeting and actually it was Ken Clarke, he’s a special adviser, who said: “You know, why are you running someone else’s campaign, shouldn’t you be running for parliament yourself?”, and I guess at that stage I thought you know do I want to make the next step from having, as a voluntary activity where I help the local Conservative Party and whatever or do I want to make a bigger step and try to get into Parliament and I guess that that’s I was more of an evolutionary root rather than a revolutionary root, I suppose. But I had been quite early on, you know everybody takes a view quite early on about how they think countries should be governed or if you're interested in politics what are the things that drive you. I’ve always taken the view that people, actually everybody involved in politics wants the same thing, which is the best for their country or their constituents, we just have a belief in a different way to get to that end."


You’ve been MP for Wimbledon for 15 years, so why did you pick to stand in Wimbledon and what have been the largest changes you’ve seen in the constituency?

"After North Warwickshire, we were living in London and I guess I was looking at thinking about whether I wanted to stand again and decided I did. I probably decided it wasn’t going to be North Warwickshire because that place Labour remained, so I was looking for a London seat, we were living it Fulham at the time, so although I was not a Wimbledon born and bred relatively close by, so that was one of the reasons why I looked at Wimbledon and luckily in those days the local Conservative Party had complete control over who they chose and I went through an interview process and at the end of it the local members voted for me to be their candidate. Also, I lost in 2001 then we’d already moved here by then, we were living, we’d moved here in 1999, soon after I got elected,  I then became a local councillor as well, and so I started to have some really big roots in the community. So I guess that after 1999, this was the obvious place for me to continue to try to stand, and I had another go in 2005.

Big changes in Wimbledon, I think there is a number of changes. One I think is that until this year I would have said there’s a lot more nighttime economy, a lot more vibrancy in the town centre in the evening in a way that there probably wasn’t at the beginning. I’d say that there is a lot more high tech and biotech small business. You know people traditionally think of Wimbledon as there are a lot of people go up into London, but actually, over the last ten years, a lot of people have been travelling the other way, people now travel into Wimbledon. The biggest, prior to the pandemic, the biggest footfall through Wimbledon town centre and the shopping was not at weekends, it was Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday lunchtimes which tells you that there are a lot of people who are working in Wimbledon and certainly my experience was that there are huge number of local really high-tech industries, and it was an interesting phenomenon as to why people were choosing to base themselves here and I think that’s been a big feature. I mean there have been a changing number of things that one has been campaigning about over the years. Better new trains on the District Line, increasing local healthcare facilities (The Nelson Hospital and the Raynes Park Health C), upgrading the quality of some of the town centres (so, you know, huge change in somewhere like Raynes Park is looked at), working with local people on trying to influence the council on the shape of Wimbledon, and there’s a very big feeling of about how Wimbledon town centre should look. They don’t want it to be another Croydon and yet how do you maintain vibrancy? You could go on. In terms of, I guess, quality of life, environmental issues have been key. So, Wimbledon has a lot of green spaces, so, keeping those clear. Those are sorts of things that you know some big major issues many of which have continued.


Do you think that we should be getting more young people into politics and what importance do you think politics plays in the lives of young people?

"So I guess that I’m always struck by, I can understand if people, some people, you hear people say: “Oh, I’m bored by politics, I’m not interested in it.” I always find that quite odd in that you don’t have to be actively involved or even take a major interest but the reality is that a lot of things that politicians do govern your lives and so having, at least having some view on it I’ve always thought is, you know I really don’t understand why people don’t wanna do that and therefore I’m really always keen that people get a grounding in education, given some help to think about politics, you know, I some way shape or form because whether one likes it or not, it’s going to affect your life, so I’m really keen more young people take an active interest. We obviously, of course, having one of the youngest House of Commons that we’ve had for probably a hundred, at least a hundred years the only time probably where the overall membership was younger would have been in ’97 and so we do have a lot of people in their twenties in the House of Commons at the moment which, comparatively, is a very young age and that I think is giving a different perspective on a number of issues. You know I think one of the key things is giving some people some education about what politics affects, how it can actually produce really better results. Also, I think that a lot of younger people are probably more single-issue about certain things so there are a lot of people who are really really interested in environmental issues again at the moment, and how that affects and I see that as something that a lot of young people are really passionate about."


Next time, we look at Crossrail, knife crime, and the school closures due to COVID-19...