Interview with Lucy Allan MP: The 2015 Election, 5 years on

On 5th anniversary of the 2015 General Election, Telford student interviews Lucy Allan MP about her last five years in politics

"Five years ago today, at the 2015 General Election, Lucy Allan MP clinched an unexpected victory in Telford by just 730 votes. Telford was a seat that had always been a Labour stronghold since its creation. Ms Allan’s victory marked many firsts for this unique and aspirational town: not only was Ms Allan the first Conservative MP in Telford’s history, she was also the first female MP to serve any constituency in Shropshire since 1929.

Today would have been the last day of David Cameron’s second term as UK Prime Minister and would have resulted in a General Election today. However, in an extraordinary period marked by Brexit turmoil, we have seen a divisive referendum, two new prime ministers, two extra general elections and now the country wrestling with the fallout from a global pandemic.

It would be safe to say that the last five years have been a tumultuous five years in politics.

I catch up with Lucy Allan, who holds now the seat with a majority of almost 11,000 votes and a 60% share of the vote, the largest vote share of any previous Telford MP. We reflect on her journey and what lies ahead for the Telford and the Country."

Samantha Smith, 7th May 2020.

 

 

You can read Samantha's interview below:

Samantha Smith:
So, Lucy, the last five years have been eventful to say the least. When you first set out to contest Telford’s parliamentary seat back in 2013 as a candidate, did you ever imagine that this is where you would be in May 2020?

Lucy Allan:  
Absolutely not. My focus back then was on getting over the line in May 2015, which I knew was a very tough challenge. It was hard work, but it was hugely enjoyable getting to know Telford, meeting so many people, finding out about what mattered to them, what they wanted for their town, their families and their future. It was an amazing time. I learned a lot. I wasn’t a politician; I didn’t have to be in Parliament. I felt very free; people were open and kind. I felt very much part of a the community. Most people weren’t that interested in politics. It didn’t really come into it. People just wanted to know their representative cared. On the night of the May 2015 General Election only five other Conservative candidates in the Country won seats from Labour, so that gives you an idea of what an unexpected win it was.

SS:
You’ve seen Telford through some of the most turbulent times in recent history; what are some of your proudest moments during your time in office?

LA:
I am proud to be able to speak up for Telford in Parliament, being Telford’s advocate, being Telford’s voice. This has meant raising issues that sometimes those in authority would rather I did not raise. But that is the job: holding Government and Local Government to account. Those in power, the State in all its guises, the decision makers, they have power over people’s lives; it is the job of every MP to ensure the powerful put the interests of the people first. I am proud to have been a campaigner on many issues that affect Telford. Whether it is Brexit, Princess Royal, CSE, New Towns, health inequalities, children in care, the baby deaths scandal and most recently the miscarriage of justice for postmasters – there is a pattern to what I do. It’s about speaking up for people who do not have a voice, who have been ignored or disregarded. I am proud about that. It’s much easier to go with the flow, not ruffle feathers and some MPs do that, but to my mind that’s not the job. It’s not what I am about.

SS:
The last five years can’t have been all plain-sailing, especially not with issues like Brexit looming overhead. Could you share some of the highs and lows you’ve experienced along the way?

LA:
You are right – it hasn’t been. You get a lot of push back from the status quo. They don’t want you upsetting the apple cart. They don’t want an outsider coming in and doing things differently. The Labour controlled Council found it very difficult. They still do. There is quite a toxic political environment locally, that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. That’s taken me a while to get used to.  I have learned to distance myself from it now and you really need to because it is so unproductive. Without doubt the most satisfying element of the last five years, has been the way that just by going that bit further to help someone, you can change lives. Sometimes, by raising something in Parliament at Prime Minister Questions, like the tragic case of Telford teenager Georgia Williams, which was my first PMQ in 2015. You don’t just shine a light on injustice but you help ease the suffering of those who experience it. Sometimes it’s more low key, like helping someone with their housing or their benefits, and you just know you have made their lives easier. It’s just as satisfying to be able to do that too.

SS:
You’ve made no secret of your stance on the European Union referendum, having been a proud Brexiteer from the very beginning, why was that?

LA:
My position on Brexit was very much a reflection of the views of my constituents. I didn’t set out to be a minority voice in Parliament and I didn’t enjoy being one. I was genuinely surprised by how pro European Parliament’s make up was in the period between 2015-2019. For some it was just going along with the status quo, for others it was a passion. But it was wholly wrong for MPs not to reflect the views of their constituents, not to listen to them and, to think that they, the MPs, knew best. It was quite straightforward for me. Brexit in the end became about something far more than EU membership. It really was about how much we valued democracy, how much we valued the voices of our constituents.

SS:
Politics is of course about far more than national picture. Are there any local issues that you have felt particularly passionate about?

LA:
The more I found out about the Child Sexual Exploitation in our town and the way authorities had just turned a blind eye for years, was something that really angered me. There was this undercurrent that these girls were ‘trouble’ and that they ‘brought it on themselves’, instead of understanding that they were victims and this was a crime. There was a similar undertone to the reaction by the authorities to the maternity deaths scandal. The women affected were seen as being difficult and somehow ungrateful and demanding to speak out about what in some cases was the most truly appalling treatment. The Ockenden Review will reveal some horrendous cases of the way women were treated at their most vulnerable. I do think that being a female MP made me more determined to speak out. There is so often a dismissive attitude towards women by people in authority, and perhaps more so in more traditional communities, where men do dominate in all the senior positions, as they have traditionally done in our area. I experience that first hand and so perhaps that makes me all the more passionate about these kind of issues.

SS:
Splitting your time between Parliament and your constituency office in Telford can’t be easy. How do you manage it all and when do you find time to relax?

LA:
One of the downsides of being an MP and having to be in Parliament during the week is that you don’t have that same day to day connection with the community you represent, which I loved having before I was elected, but just isn’t possible now. I miss that. You do have to decide what issues you are going focus on and recognise that to make your mark you can’t do everything and you can’t please everyone.

SS:
With the current uncertainty over coronavirus and what society will look like after this pandemic, what are your priorities for Telford at the moment?

LA:
Without doubt Telford will be harder hit than many communities in the country, in what is going to be a devastating period for local jobs and business. It is just such a tragedy for Telford, because we had literally just got to a fantastic place with our local economy: more skilled jobs, more growth, more investment than ever before in Telford’s history. We were thriving. More young people in employment, Southwater buzzing, new factories, everything was happening for Telford. We were a massive success story and we had just got there. This is a body blow. The disease may have hit the elderly, hardest but the aftermath will hit young people the most.

So, my priority as Telford’s MP is to give my all to getting Telford back on track. It will take all the resilience that Telford has, all its determination, all its legendary spirit – we have some great people in our community, who share my vision for Telford’s future and I know that we will come through this. It will take time. Now, more than ever, is not the time for party politics. We need a constructive relationship with Government to ensure that Telford gets all the support it needs to pull through. So that will be my mission.

SS:
Do you have any personal ambitions for the future? Will we be seeing you in 10 Downing Street any time soon?

LA:
I can genuinely say, hand on heart, I am so glad I am not a minister at this impossibly difficult time. Ministers are doing their all to deal with the unknown, not just a deadly virus that only months ago the world had never heard of, but the unknown impact on our economy and on people’s lives. We don’t know what lies ahead, but we do need to be adaptable and determined with a strong sense of hope. Telford is good at that.

SS:
Well, Lucy, it’s been great to chat with you about your experience as Telford’s MP thus far. I’d like to finish by asking you what you’d like to say to the people of Telford, and what advice you’d give to any future MPs in the making?

LA: 
This is going to be a tough time, but Telford is a strong community. “Nothing great is easy,” as Captain Matthew Webb would say. I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone in Telford, for their kindness and their warmth over the last five years, for their sense of community and particularly to those who have put their trust in in me to help and support them. I do not always get the outcome people want but I do always do the best I can.  I feel a deep sense of gratitude and strong sense that I must repay that trust and kindness.  

 

Photos above: Lucy Allan MP at the 2015 General Election Count.

Samantha served as a Member of Youth Parliament (or Youth MP) for Telford and Wrekin from 2017 to 2019, and has a keen interest in Law and Politics which she hopes to develop in the future.