What is your earliest political memory? – Councillor Joe Cooney, Leader of Pendle Council
For as long as I can remember I’ve always had an interest in politics and current affairs, though my earliest memory of actual political activity has to be campaigning for Margaret Thatcher and my local Conservative MP at the age of 7 in my home borough of Pendle. I am pleased to continue campaigning in the same area to this day!
Did you go straight into politics? – Councillor David Sudworth, West Lancashire
No. Despite my interest in politics and the possibility in the back of my mind that I may one day stand for elected office, I decided to follow law as a career. After training in Chester, I qualified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1997 and became a partner in several law practices across the North West of England, which eventually led me to setting-up my own practices in Pendle and Manchester. This gave me excellent ‘real world’ experience of running of business. I feel it’s very important for politicians to have a grounding outside of politics! Though I was working in the world of business and law, I did, however, keep my political appetite satisfied through my election in 1994 as a Councillor, representing my home ward of Brierfield on Pendle Borough Council. I continued in this role until 2002.
Why an MEP? Do you see it as a stepping-stone to Westminster? – Tara Hewitt, Wirral Conservative Future
I made a conscious decision to serve the UK at the European level rather than national – because I am ambitious for Britain. When I was first elected in 2004 European elections, Europe had changed so much. Two devastating World Wars led to the integration of Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands into the European Coal and Steel Community. Our parents saw this expand in the 1970s and 1990s. But the fall of the Berlin Wall, ex Eastern Bloc countries coming out from the shadow of Communism and knocking at the door of the EU and Mandela changing the face of South Africa, were all defining moments for my generation. Many don’t realise how imperitive the EU is in our daily lives. It is true that because it is not widely reported in the press, people often don’t realise the importance of the work of an MEP. So many of our UK laws – some very vital ones at that – have their origin at EU-level. I want to play a part in forming those laws at their source for the good of our country. I genuinely believe that the UK at its best will continue to be a leading nation in the EU, United Nations and the World.
You have drafted over 20 pieces of legislation, which ones are you most proud of? – Councillor Eveleigh Moore-Dutton, Cheshire West and Chester
If I am going to pick a single report it would probably be the one I authored last year entitled ‘Better Legislation’. The direction given by this report means that every small business is now exempt from new EU rules unless the benefits are deemed to outweigh the burdens. This is already working for 2600 small businesses and shops in the North West exempt from a new EU directive on the return of electrical goods! The report also declared war to put an end to the so-called ‘gold-plating’ of EU legislation by Member States. This is when national governments add extra and unnecessary regulations and further obligations to European Union directives when implementing them into national law, often blaming the EU for the additional bureaucracy. Following this report, I was delighted to meet with UK Government Ministers who offered their support to my proposals that will reduce and eliminate gold-plating. They have pledged that they will now transpose the minimum necessary legislation to comply with each EU directive. Result!
Will you vote to stay in or leave the UK in a future referendum? – Dave Morgan, Manchester
The EU has grown and grown without anyone taking a breath and asking if it was the right thing to do, therefore I fully support the Conservative-led Government in reviewing what powers the EU has and what it does with them. This review will then allow Britain to lead on putting together a reformed membership of the EU, which will be put to the British people in a referendum. I will be campaigning for our continued membership under these new terms, as I strongly believe that if Britain does not have a seat at the top table, there will be real consequences for our country and its place in the world. Having to live by the decisions of others without our interests represented is impossible to do and if we were to simply ‘pull up the drawbridge’ I feel we’d soon come to regret it. If the Government get their review and reform agenda correct then the consequent referendum will, I am sure, be a resounding yes.
How important is it that we seal trade deals between other countries, such as EU-US Trade Agreement? - Councillor Tim Ashton, Fylde and Lancashire
Free trade deals are one of the cornerstones of our membership of the EU. The UK, with its population of 62million has by far the most to gain when the EU talks about breaking down trade barriers with countries such as the United States (population 313 million). This US-EU agreement alone could worth €119 billion a year. Benefits we would never see if we were not part of the EU negotiating bloc and sat at that ‘top table’. At the G8 summit in June, Barak Obama made it clear he wants with the EU and not individual nations, proving the importance of the EU’s combined voice on trade matters.
Small businesses drive the economy – does the EU help or hinder them? - Councillor Tony Markley, Cumbria
For many years our smaller companies have become weighed-down in red tape and bureaucracy. However, things are changing and I like to think that my work in this area (mentioned earlier) has had a real and lasting impact on helping our businesses free themselves of this burden and thus thrive and prosper. As Conservative Legal Affairs spokesman I’ve had the opportunity to exert a positive influence on the impact EU law has on our businesses, particularly SMEs. I hope in any forthcoming work I can offer even more to help our small companies, which form the backbone of our economy and our future prosperity.
You were in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai when terrorists attacked it in 2008. Did this change your view of the world? - Councillor Mudasir Dean, Bolton
Yes, definitely. I was in the hotel lobby when the gunmen came in. They were spraying bullets everywhere and I watched other people fall dead in front of me. An experience I will never forget for the rest of my life. After hiding out in a dark basement for several hours and then finding out the news that I was one of only a handful of survivors, did make me reassess my life in many different ways. Above all, it made me realise the importance of my friends; my family; my wife and my two children.
The North West is a huge constituency. Do you get around it? - Councillor John Mallinson, Carlisle
The North West region is a huge and diverse constituency; stretching right from Cheshire up to the Scottish Borders, so getting around it all can be difficult, particularly when I am spending most of my time in the European Parliament. However, I do get around it as much as I possibly can. I regularly meet with businesses, constituents, Party members and other organisations to listen to their views on Europe and EU legislation and, most importantly, establish how these views can best be represented in the European Parliament. I ensure I put the North West first in every vote, speech and piece of legislation I draft as an MEP. I also very much enjoy campaigning with Conservative Party colleagues across the region. Back in April this year I was pleased to spend a whole week travelling round Cumbria and Lancashire helping our hard working candidates with their campaigns for the County elections. You are one of five (and the only British) MEPs appointed to a panel to advise the President on the new code of conduct that governs the behaviour of MEPs.
How important is it that we restore public trust in our politicians? – Richard Elliott, Chairman, Greater Manchester Area Conservatives
It is vital that in the 21st century we as politicians don’t just have to do the right thing; we have to be seen as doing the right thing. I was last elected in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal and the relationship between public and politician was at an all-time low. Citizens need to have confidence in both parliament and parliamentarians. That is why the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee put together a new code of conduct to provide a strong shield against unethical behaviour and demand transparency from members right across the continent.
What has been your best moment in politics? - Hannah Withy, Chairman, Liverpool Conservatives
Without doubt my best and most memorable moment of my political life so far was seeing 6-year old Atiya Wilkinson reunited with her mother. Atiya has been abducted by her father and had not seen her mother for three years. Over several weeks I worked closely with Greater Manchester Police and the Pakistani authorities and Atiya was returned safely to her mother during the Christmas holidays. A moment I will never forget.