Chester's new Labour MP Chris Matheson must truly understand that well known phrase about a week being a long time in politics.

Just days earlier he had seen his party defeated nationally but had personally scraped home with a minuscule 93-vote majority over his Tory rival Stephen Mosley following two nail-biting recounts.

This was his reaction after his election

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Now he was sitting with a journalist recalling his first week as an MP including using his new position to demand answers from the Highways Agency about delays to those Posthouse roadworks.

Mr Matheson began by recounting his train journey to Westminster with his friend and fellow newly-elected MP Justin Madders, the member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, like a couple of young lads on their first day at school.

And it’s the Chester MP who conjures up images of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley speeding along on the Hogwarts Express when he compares parliament to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Mr Matheson, 47, who lives in Hoole with his wife Kathy and their two daughters, aged nine and 15, explains: “It’s a royal palace. Part of it’s over 1,000 years old, most of it dates from the 1830s, 1840s, part of it is from the 1940s and 50s after the bomb destroyed the House of Commons’ chamber.

“So they built bits and knocked bits down and changed things around a bit and so you get taken round somewhere and it’s bit like the moving staircase at Hogwarts in Harry Potter, you try and go back to the same place and you can’t find where it is.

“But it’s great fun and it’s historic and you can feel the history and the history does add to a sense of responsibility.”

He believes the Chester Labour Party, who also took control of Cheshire West and Chester Council from the Tories, ran a great campaign to buck the national trend.

New CWaC leader Samantha Dixon. Photo by Ian Cooper
New CWaC leader Samantha Dixon

On the local scene, the MP believes opposition to fracking for underground gas in the constituency chimed with the electorate, adding: “There was a general feeling there were wrong priorities in local planning issues and certainly fracking.”

On the national scene, the proud socialist and trade unionist ‘can’t fault any of Ed’s policies’ but believes Milliband was the victim of scare stories about ‘Labour having to do a deal with the SNP’.

“I remember Bill Clinton’s phrase - if there’s one person offering me hope and another offering fear, I’ll go with the guy offering hope every time. But, of course, fear is a very powerful emotion as well.”

Mr Matheson, who remains tight-lipped about his favoured candidate in the Labour leadership battle, makes no apology for his slightly left-of-centre views.


“Socialism is not a dirty word, it’s a good word, it means you look after ordinary people, it means you believe in treating people decently, you do a hard day’s work and get a fair day’s pay. What’s wrong with that?

“The Tories represent big business in this country, not business but big business, and they are making money for those people.”

He acknowledges the challenge for him and his council leader colleague Cllr Samantha Dixon will be operating in the context of a Conservative government.

“We’ve been dealt a bad hand in terms of having a majority Tory government and I’m just going to have to do my best to oppose it but also get the best for Chester. It’s all very well being in opposition but there’s still the city to look after.”

He says many priorities will be set by constituents like the delays over the A483 roadworks but adds: “I want to work on improving the number of quality jobs, particularly in manufacturing. We’ve got some great top level manufacturing companies around here.

“But we’ve let too much manufacturing go nationally in the last 10 years, it’s a great source of quality jobs and of skilled employment.”

Young people

The MP also wants to make sure we are training young people with the right skills to support those industries and is ‘very disappointed’ West Cheshire College’s Handbridge site looks set to close.

“We need to have an early meeting with the college management to see if anything can be done. I’m pessimistic but it’s not going to stop me trying.”

He knows balancing family life with his demanding new job isn’t going to be easy but his wife and extended family are extremely supportive. He wants to be available for the people who voted for him even if that sometimes means being stopped as he goes about the weekly shop.

“Let’s face it, I’m not exactly a member of One Direction, so I’m not quite sure I’m at that stage yet. If somebody needs me then they need me whether I’m in the supermarket or in the constituency surgery. The fact is, you get paid a decent whack for this job and you should be available to the people whenever they need you.”

On those lines, Mr Matheson asks people to bear with him while he sets up his Chester office. “It was a very close election and I always knew it was so I’ve not got any staff at the moment or a constituency office. I’m doing everything on my own.

“I’ve got several hundred emails stacking up and I want to apologise, as well as expressing my gratitude to the people of Chester, for not being as prompt as I am usually.”