“….I think it’s important that people do realise that MPs do a crazy, extraordinary uplifting job, but we are normal people”
Our campaign agent, Danny Akinbisehin, spoke to former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP about life in politics.
“Tell us about your political background – when did you first get involved in politics and what did you do before?”
“Well, I joined the Conservative party when I was 16 years old. My father was a local councillor and I think he spotted that I was interested in current affairs and what was going on in the world you know. I had various views and things, and so he encouraged me to join the Conservatives, but he did say you need to find your own political voice. I had to work out my own views and things, to find out what party I support and agree with, which I think is important for everybody to do.
I then got involved with the Young Conservatives, which is now called Conservative Future, and really carried on from there particularly when I went to university. I made lots of friends, many of whom are now in the House of Commons with me, so it is something I have been involved with right the way through. It will be 28 years this summer, which is really quite frightening.
“What was your main driving force behind getting into politics?”
“Firstly, I am a Conservative and I do think the Conservative Party is a good party, the right party to be in government so it is partly about that. But also because I think what really makes me cross is when I see organisations or even if it is government, treating people badly and I think citizens need people to stand up and help to challenge decisions. In my previous career as a solicitor it was all about being an advocate for the people, standing up for them, untangling problems and again that’s what a member of Parliament does, so I had a lot of mutual skills really.”
“My father was a huge inspiration, and he always encouraged us as a family to have political debates and discussions. Margaret Thatcher was also the Prime Minister when I first joined, I know she arouses strong views, but you know having her as the first female Prime Minister is pretty inspirational if you are a woman thinking of going into politics. I guess now, my constituents, because actually that’s my whole reason for being here. It’s about standing up for the people that elected you to represent them. Whenever I get fed up of life at Westminster, which happens pretty often, going back and reminding yourself about who you are there to benefit and help is really important”
“What type of hobbies do you have, and do you get any downtime?”
“Well I didn’t really when I was a minister, but now, well of course you do, you chisel it out don’t you. I guess my hobbies are obviously spending time with my family, which isn’t a hobby really it’s my life really but trying to make sure I have enough time with them as I am away for 2-3 nights a week. Things like running, I ran the London Marathon a couple of years ago and to keep sort of vaguely fit.
Others things aswell, you know cinema and the theatre, but I don’t get much of a chance to go I am always about 6 months behind everybody else with the latest films.”
“What is it like working within Westminster? Do you have a close circle of friends?”
“Yes I do, and that sort of changes I guess. When you are a minister you sort of seem to spend a lot more time with other ministers. But I mean you always do, I knew a lot of people before I got elected, lots of friends from university, some of whom were elected with me in 2010, some of whom came in 2015. You know you do create a circle of friends as well, and I have absolutely got that. You know, Westminster is a very strange working environment, you’re like a little independent organisation. You have people that you employ to help you complete the job and you have a little team in there, and it can also be a very lonely place. You have to be very self-motivated, it’s really easy to do very little because you sort of have other people helping you, actually you have to identify what campaigns, what laws that you might want to make a difference in.”
“But on the other hand, if you do that it’s also an immensely liberating place because you can actually make a difference and you can get the law changed, but you’ve got to be a real self-starter. Even just to get here in the first place, I don’t think anybody had an easy journey into Parliament. I was a candidate in Loughborough 6 years before I was elected, so you need to keep yourself motivated and have your eye on that end goal.”
“As the former secretary of state for education, what is your opinion on grammar schools and why?”
“Well I’m not an advocate, and I think there is a place for selective education and that we can have grammar schools in our education system, but to be honest with you a big challenge in education at the moment is getting really high standards in our schools absolutely everywhere in the country. There are some parts of the country where education under-performance is entrenched, and that means that young people do not have the option of any good schools to go to and I think that’s just completely unfair on young people. I know from my time as secretary of state that most government departments only have so much capacity to drive reforms and everything else, and that’s why when I was there I would identify these achieving excellence areas. I really wanted to focus on the education standards in those areas and I think another reform of more selective schools would actually divert the attention away from those areas that most need and deserve to have the best possible education.”
“Do you have any personal political highlights that you are really proud of? What are they?”
“Well I think of all the areas I have really campaigned on it’ll be mental health. So in 2012 I lead the first ever general debate on mental health in the House of Commons chamber and that was a debate in which a number of MPs disclosed their own battles with mental health, which was a brave thing to do. I think it really resonated with the public, there was lots of great campaigning going on already and it had been going on for years, but I think it just showed that Westminster understands and did share that we are normal people like everyone else, and even if we don’t have our own mental health problems, other people around us do.”
“And I guess as Education Secretary I talked a lot about mental wellbeing in schools, a lot about character education and getting a White Paper published and just trying to answer the question of where is our education system is headed. How do we build a strong, consistent education system across the country. I think one of my great regrets is that I didn’t get to implement a lot of that.”
Quick fire round
“Favourite place to visit?”
“Death row – last meal?”
“Steak and Chips”
“Best prime minister of all time?”
“Favourite Conservative MP”
“Labour MP you most admire?”
“Liz Kendall – standing against Jeremy Corbyn and taking a lot of flack”
“Hard Brexit or soft Brexit?”
“Where do you want to be in 10 years?”
“Still being a member of Parliament for Loughborough, for the rest of it there’s no point in planning because you never know what’s going to happen next.”
“It has been great fun! I do think it’s important that we get young people involved in politics, I think the referendum showed why we need young people involved in these things and I think it’s important that people do realise that MPs do a crazy, extraordinary uplifting job, but we are normal people”
“Will we be doing this again next year?”
“I hope so!”