Why do you want to represent the constituency again next year?
Its a huge privilege to be the member of parliament for Sutton Coldfield, the royal town of Sutton Coldfield and I have greatly enjoyed my time as its member of parliament, the last 13 years. And its an enormously worthwhile and rewarding job and I greatly enjoy looking after the royal town and looking after my many constituents and I would like to continue to do so.
Key goals/priorities in your role as MP for Sutton Coldfield this year?
Well this year the number one objective is to fight off the wicked proposition from Birmingham’s Labour City Council that we should have 6000 new homes built on our greenbelt. I’m very much in favour of building new homes but they’ve got to be built in the right place. Sutton’s greenbelt is not the right place.
Well we’re involved with the campaign to try and make sure that we reassert our royal status as a royal town and I’m involved in countless little things on behalf of the town but also of course looking after my around 100,000 constituents and their individual issues and problems, it’s a very important part of my work.
The campaign about royal status, why is that particularly important?
Because Sutton Coldfield is an ancient, royal town and there’s been some confusion about our status in the past and we want to reassert it. And we’re very proud of it in Sutton Coldfield.
Thoughts on high speed rail?
I’m in favour – its very important to ensure that we have the best communications infrastructure in Europe and it addresses a very serious capacity problem. My constituents travel from New Street in Birmingham, the trains to the main destinations are very overcrowded and we need HS2 for capacity and to make sure we don’t get left behind in the West Midlands.
The Keep Justice Local campaign
Well that was a campaign which in the first instance we won and then we lost subsequently, in keeping open our magistrates court in Sutton Coldfield. We had a great campaign, we managed to save it initially but then the amount of work that was going through the court dropped to such a level that it was just impossible to maintain the case for keeping it open and we had to recognise reality at that point.
Do you think that Britain should accept refugees from the crisis in Syria?
Syria is the worst humanitarian catastrophe since the genocide in Rwanda and there are probably half of the entire population of Syria on the move, 3 million people who have fled across into the 4 countries surrounding, imposing enormous problems on those countries. Taking refugees in Britain, a very small number of very specific refugees is the right thing to do but no one should think that this is a solution to the crisis which involves the mass movement of millions of people. And most of them…I met some of them in the refugee camps, when I was international development secretary, they want to go back to their own country, they want a solution to this crisis so they can go home. They don’t want to live in another country and in the end the solution to Syria will be through discussion and through political talks, thats how you get to a solution to this crisis in the end.
At what point do you think the Conservative Party have to start treating UKIP as a credible right wing rival as opposed to a party of protest voters?
Well the supporters of UKIP, not entirely but very largely are our cousins in the Conservative party and we want them back.
Immigration: do you think that by focusing the election campaign largely on immigration, the Conservative Party risks appealing to only a small segment of the electorate?
We should give the right priority to every issue that is of concern to the electorate. Immigration is of concern to the electorate. We will be campaigning on our record because we have reduced immigration, and its important that our policies seem to be firm but fair and thats what the government aims to do.
Key campaign themes;
Well we’ll have to wait and see because it’s still some way off but it’s clear that the stewardship of the economy by the coalition will be very important, wrestling with the desperate economic inheritance we received in 2010 from the outgoing Labour government, putting that right. That’s clearly enormously important. I think that will be at the heart of it but the education reforms that the government have introduced and the welfare reforms that are being introduced, those are all very important parts to demonstrate the effectiveness of the coalition in sorting out these historic problems.
On Project Umbano;
Well Project Umabano was started in 2006/7 in Rwanda and it takes Conservative activists from Cabinet to grassroots level to Rwanda to take part in international development and it has international development projects, particularly in the area of teaching, health, the private sector and justice. It has 3 main effects, one is to be a life-changing experience for those who go, and we get them to write about it afterwards and it often shows that it was indeed a life-changing experience, it certainly was for me when I first went. Secondly, it does a tiny bit of good in a country that has the most terrible and troubled history that is now firmly pulling itself up by the bootstraps. And thirdly it means that in the Conservative party, there are a group of people, now quite a large group of people who have seen at firsthand what works and what doesn’t work in international development in a very poor country and are able to inform the debate within the Conservative party and the wider debate about that.
Do Green Party gains suggest that the Conservative Party need to do more to introduce a green agenda into the party?
I think on Green matters, the environment, climate change, David Cameron is undoubtedly the Greenest prime minister ever and aspires to be the greenest government ever, I don’t know if we are, but I hope we are and I think that speaks for itself.
Conservative party achievements
Well if you look at a whole range of things from what the conservative councils are doing locally, from promoting the environment, promoting recycling… proper sustainability in a whole series of different areas…that’s council level but at the top the government has led around the world on climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, so I think from the small to the big, the government is in the right place on this.
How effective do you think that DC has been as leader of the Conservative party?