As printed in MI Magazine for Markyate and Flamstead
What is your current occupation?
I am a teacher by profession and now run my own successful business, advising and working with organisations like Adoption UK, Cambridge University Press and the Royal Society for the Arts on education policy and practice. Between 2001 and 2010, I ran a national education and participation charity, the Citizenship Foundation, devoted to the development of good quality citizenship education in schools and the broader engagement of young people in politics and in their communities.
What is your private profile?
I have a management sciences degree from Manchester and a doctorate from the London Institute of Education. I grew up in Harlesden in North West London and am married to Ann, a head teacher in Hillingdon. We have two wonderful boys, aged 6 and 9. I have lived in this part of Hertfordshire since starting my teaching career at Langleybury School, just off the A41 at Hunton Bridge in 1987. I’m a trustee at Adoption UK and Chair of Governors at one of our son’s schools. I also chair the awarding body, Industry Qualifications. I have a passion for current affairs, education, Routemaster buses and Tottenham Hotspur; not a list that will win votes from all, but I figure that honesty is the best policy!
Why do you want to be an MP?
I’ve never worked inside the political ‘bubble’ before, although I’ve campaigned successfully on things like education policy, the provision of social care for older people and support for volunteering. I believe passionately that it is time for a fresh pair of eyes, with experience in the real world, to make sure that the villages in Dacorum have proper representation at Westminster. Across the political range, we have the best- qualified MPs we’ve ever had, but the least experienced and connected. Experience in the outside world should be a key qualification for tomorrow’s politicians.
What is your ambition as a politician?
Simply to put the heart back into Hemel Hempstead and its surrounding villages. There has been drift since the Conservatives took control of our local council sixteen years ago which is why I have published a plan that will call for a review of all greenfield planning decisions, argue for the reversal of cuts in local bus services and an end to year-on-year increases in rail fare and station parking costs. I want to build an arts venue for the whole borough to use, and increase capacity at Hemel Hospital, which prioritises care for the elderly.
Do you think MPs and government ministers should be allowed to work outside of their public service job?
On balance, no. I understand the argument for MPs to be allowed to undertake a modest amount of activity so that they keep ‘connected’ with the world of work, activity that might, say, amount to no more than 10% of their MP’s salary and 10% of their working time (a morning or afternoon a week). The public expect a full-time commitment, and we need to move towards that. I would, however, argue that the next generation of MPs might be expected to have demonstrated impact in the world outside politics before they enter Parliament.
Do you have social media pages?
Yes, I tweet at @UKpolicywatch; I am on Facebook and I’m an occasional blogger at breslinpublicpolicy.com. We have a campaign presence through Hemellabour.org.uk, on twitter @hemellabour, and on the hemellabour Facebook page. I’m envious of those who blog continually and at length, but I’ve no idea where they get the time to do so.
Why should Labour get into power?
Locally and nationally, only Labour offers an approach framed by aspiration, hope and inclusion. Locally, our Conservative MP has got too ‘up close and comfortable’ with Conservative-led Dacorum Borough Council - and what do we have to show for it? Broken promises to rebuild the Pavilion and rejuvenate the hospital, several expensive and botched ‘regenerations’ of the town centre, consistently unopposed cuts to our bus services and increases in our rail fares.
Plus strategic plans, such as LA3 at Pouchen End, that threaten to overwhelm our public services and our green belt.
Locally, Labour has a plan, a plan to work with local people and local businesses to put the heart back into Hemel. That means rebuilding the Pavilion, capping rent rises for locally owned businesses to the rate of inflation, working with the health sector to develop the hospital that we all need, building a new partnership with local businesses to deliver apprenticeships for our young people, and reviewing development plans so that we protect our green fields and meet the needs of local people rather than just large builders.
Nationally, Labour is committed to protecting spending on schools and renewing the NHS, a new deal on childcare to support working families, an increase in the minimum wage, lower tuition fees, and the end of the bedroom tax.
If you want to free-up larger council and housing association properties, you don’t ‘fine’ people out of them, you incentivise people to move and to do so within the community in which they are established. In Hemel many of those affected by the bedroom tax are older people in the homes that they first moved to when they came to the town, often to help build it. Now, their children have moved on to university, work or family life, and they are asking no more than to remain in the homes they love and retain the space to accommodate their families when they visit.