In an exclusive two-part interview, DAVID NORBURY speaks to City of Chester MP Stephen Mosley about his new career in parliament
THE MP was remarkably relaxed in shirt sleeves talking about his transition from the Victorian council chamber at Chester Town Hall via his open selection as parliamentary candidate at Chester’s Catholic High School and the declaration of his victory in the Northgate Arena to the green benches of Westminster.
It could be argued that being part of a government challenged by the need to deal with Britain’s biggest ever debt problem is not the best of times to enter parliament.
But the MP agrees there is a parallel with the clean sheet of paper approach which the new Cheshire West and Chester Council was able to adopt.
“The council decided to do things differently and they have already made changes and achieved £50m of savings,” says Mr Mosley.
“It was clear at Westminster that no party had sufficient seats to govern and that a minority government would not work.
“So the opportunity was there to take a radical and different approach”.
As Mr Mosley travelled to London on the Monday following his election, it was unclear how the country was to be governed.
But as the political whirlwind swirled, he remained positive about the future and said: “I was absolutely amazed how David Cameron, George Osborne and William Hague kept the Parliamentary party briefed.
“We all supported the leadership because we wanted a strong, stable government and to start solving the problems the country faces.”
The more immediate problems for the MP including finding an office – he is now installed a couple of minutes from Parliament – and accommodation for his overnight stays in the capital.
“Under the new rules MPs cannot own a property but I did the sums and found it was cheaper to stay in an hotel on the weeknights I have to be in London,” said the MP.
Another sign of the times is that he travels to and from Chester in standard class.
“We need to treat public money as we treat our own money. We have a new parliament and we have to do things differently.”
But what has not changed from the very beginning of his political career is an interest in solving constituents’ problems.
“I first found it on the doorstep and the first letter I had as an MP arrived by email at 6.30am on the morning after I was elected,” said Mr Mosley.
He now has a bulging postbag which he attends to with the help of his small office staff in Chester – he has no staff in London – and says he continues to be amazed at the range of issues he is asked to help with.
The change from a Labour to a Conservative MP for the constituency has seen the letters continue to pour in and his surgeries are well attended.
“Many people believe their MP has power, which is not the case, but we do have influence and it is very gratifying when I can work with other organisations such as Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Chester and District Housing Trust to resolve an issue successfully,” he says.
The MP has also joined forces with Cllr Mike Jones, leader of Cheshire West and Chester, to take questions from the public in a new ‘Question Time Roadshow’ which will visit every part of the city.
The next move to bring the council and the MP closer to the public is due in the city centre next month (September). Details will be publicised.
But the issues facing the country as a whole are never far away and the MP says he was ‘saddened’ by the announcement by the Lloyds Banking Group that it would be scaling down its operations in Chester.
“My sympathies go out to those facing redundancy and uncertainty,” he said at the time adding that he and his colleagues at the Department of Work and Pensions would be doing all they could to offer assistance.
Mr Mosley arranged to meet employment ministers and was assured by Lloyds they remained fully committed to their operations in Chester where they will continue to employ more than 2,000 people.
Describing the country’s debt problem as ‘huge’ – ‘we are borrowing one pound for every four we spend”, the MP insists: “We’ve got to cut public spending to avoid a crisis in our economy”.
He backs the Government’s ‘Spending Challenge’ call and asks for people’s help in make the cuts in a way that is fair and responsible.
“After all, this is your money and these are your public services.
“You pay your taxes, you use the hospitals, your children go to the schools, you rely on the police to keep you safe.
“So tell us where you think the waste is.
“Tell us where we can save here in Chester.
“Tell us how we can re-think government and do things differently,” asks Mr Mosley of his constituents.
Shortly after arriving in Westminster, Mr Mosley was elected as vice chairman of the North West group of Conservative MPs.
Although he has views on regional government, the MP says he is ‘delighted’ to be a voice for the North West within the Conservative Party, which now has 21 other MPs in the region.
They hope to lobby the government to champion its needs in Westminster.
He points out, however, that Chester is on the very edge of the North West and has important economic ties to neighbouring areas, especially North Wales.
“For me the idea of a unified North West economy is rather abstract,” says the MP.
“For example, few would argue that Chester’s economic future is more closely related to the economy of Carlisle than to that of Connah’s Quay in North Wales.
“This has not been fully recognised and the opportunities offered by our neighbours have not been fully followed up and secured.
“The rigid regional attitude might even have proved to be a psychological barrier to growth in areas such as Chester on the edge of the region.
“That is why I am particularly pleased that the Government is replacing the remote North West Regional Development Agency with more local, accountable and relevant local enterprise partnerships”.
Partnerships, he believes, will be far more able to relate to local needs.