New Braintree MP James Cleverly talks about his first moves in his new career in Westminster

James Cleverly

James Cleverly - Credit: Archant

Braintree’s new MP James Cleverly is not new to politics. He has been stalking the corridors of London’s City Hall for years.

The House of Commons, however, is quite a different matter, Annabelle Dickson reports.

The wall of sound as 650 MPs cram into 400 seats is like nothing else.

“It gets really noisy. This thing I have seen so many times on TV, and suddenly you are in amongst it, it is really good,” he said.

He joins the 2015 intake in the first majority Conservative Government since 1997, determined to show voters that the Conservatives can be a “considerate and compassionate political party”.

“I found it really galling when the Lib Dems tried to claim credit for anything positive that came out of the Government. They tried to give the impression that if it wasn’t for them we would be sacrificing everyone’s firstborn child. That is not the party I joined.

“That is naturally where the Conservative Party wants to be. I am not some weird outlier, some kind of unusual creature within the party. We are pragmatic and practical, but we want to be a party at ease with itself in a country at ease with itself and us, and we have the opportunity to show that is what we want to do.”

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While many of the new MPs arrive in parliament bright-eyed and enthusiastic, they soon find the reality of getting things done can be a different story.

But Mr Cleverly said that his years helping to run the capital would be relevant, and help him represent his constituents “more slickly”.

“I don’t expect that means I am going to hit the ground and be an expert. But that said, the contacts I made while working in City Hall have already meant there are people I can chat with quickly, which is going to be useful.”

He already knows the housing minister Brandon Lewis – something he hopes will prove useful with the housing brief being so relevant to his Essex constituency.

“There are a couple of other examples like that which means I can hit the ground running more than I would otherwise have done,” he said. But he is keeping his planned first moves in terms of speeches and legislation “close to his chest”.

“I have a couple of ideas about small business, particularly about transport investment and I think to start with I am going to focus on those two.

“There are so many interesting and important issues you could fight for. It would be so easy to spread yourself too thin and not end up getting anywhere on any of them. That is a real challenge,” he added.

“There is discipline you have to impose yourself, you are better off getting a result on a couple of issues, than not getting results on any issues.”

With results to achieve in the corridors of Westminster, and constituents to serve in the Braintree constituency, he admits it is going to be a challenge to keep the work and life balance. He is married with two children.

“We had a coffee at 10 Downing Street just before the election and the prime minister spoke to a number of aspiring Conservative MPs. One thing he said is don’t lose sight of the importance of your family. He said parliament breaks relationships on a horribly regular basis.

“But I think having a family life, is not just nice to have, it is a really important part of keeping you grounded. You can get wrapped up in cotton wool here in parliament.

“You can easily slip into the belief you are the centre of the universe. The whole system is geared up to make MPs effective, but that also can sometimes have the knock-on effect of making you feel you are the most important creatures on the face of the earth.

“Having a kid with mumps, or that stuff families have to deal with, does bring you down to earth with a bit of a bump. I think it is really important. It is why it is important MPs have outside interests.

“I know it has had a bad name. I know people think it is just about making loads of money from business interests.

“But I’m in the reservists. That keeps me grounded. Things like that are really important.

“So your politics is important but it is not the only thing in the world and you have to be reminded about it,” he added.