“I’M NOT merely a full-time MP, I regard it as way of life not just as job,” said Conservative candidate Sir John Redwood.
“I live here. I shop here. I go to events here. I’m often around the town and the other leading settlements in the constituency – I’m very approachable.”
And Sir John – who was knighted in the New Year’s Honours list – says that he keeps residents informed as often as possible.
“I respond by return to big email correspondence, I run a daily website I receive literally hundreds of comments, often one or 200 comments to every story that I run and I run at least one story a day and I run a considerable number of local stories.”
The veteran politician, who was first elected to the Wokingham seat in 1987, is standing again for the party, and was defending his record.
“I hold regular surgeries which some MP’s don’t bother to do,” he said.
“I feel I give a good service and my service will obviously be judged in the ballot box on December 12.”
He was responding to one of the common comments that appear on social media – that he doesn’t attend events or visit charities.
When one was mentioned, he said: “I don’t recall ever failing to respond to an invitation. I’d be very happy to see one. And if elected, I’m sure I’d be happy to go and meet them and talk to them.”
He has spent more than half his life in parliament, and is still determined to serve constituents if re-elected.
“I feel I’ve got a big job to do. I was halfway through it in the last Parliament trying to fulfil the promises I and my party had made in the 2017 election when the parliament was dissolved because of the log jam and the difficulties that parliament was in and I wish to see those tasks through and so I am renewing those promises.
“I’m adding additional promises because obviously, I’m preparing for a five-year Parliament which we could have this time.
“We’ve now had two rather short Parliaments and there are many things I still want to do for Wokingham and with Wokingham, working the Conservative Council in the borough and working with the Conservative council in West Berkshire, where I feel my access to ministers and my membership of the same party as the government is an important strength for Wokingham and West Berkshire residents.”
He said that one of his big priorities would be school funding. “I feel I’m halfway there,” he admitted. “I and other colleagues ran a campaign for some time saying that the total sum going to education is not sufficient and saying that places like Wokingham and West Berkshire are getting a very small share of the total and so I was arguing both for redistribution of the total and for a bigger total. The government has now conceded both of those cases. We’re now into the second year of a bit better money coming to Wokingham and West Berkshire schools. But I’m not finished yet.”
Nationally, the Conservative party has been in power since 2010, with austerity politics.
“I think the first five-year period was, was very necessary, we did need to take tough decisions in order to get the deficit down and to start attacking the rate at which the debt was increasing.
“A lot of that was actually done by increased tax revenue. And so that was a negative for quite a lot of people in Wokingham. So that’s another reason why now, having made this breakthrough with the Conservative Party, I think we’re in good shape to say, well, we done the difficult thing, we got the deficit under control, we can now afford a bit more.
“And as we start to grow the economy more quickly on the basis of policies that do that, then we will also have more money for public services. It’s not a magic money tree. It’s the fruits of hard work and success.”
Sir John said that he would push to remove VAT on green products and female hygiene products if the country leaves the European Union and he was re-elected.
“I’m very keen to see also good progress with greening transport systems. And above all working with the local council on greening Wokingham and that means the next big piece of work, if elected, is to work with the council to get a slower rate of new development in the next local plan from the rather intensive development we’re seeing in this local plan, and to back and work with the council over their plans for more trees and for a variety of shrubs and plantings that can help improve air quality and deal with the visual environment as well.”
Sir John also wants to use his influence to improve railways for commuters and pledged to work with the council on buses.
Being a Brexiteer, if Boris Johnson won the election and invited him back into the cabinet, would he serve?
“I’m very willing to serve. If he wants me to do a serious job of course, I’d be very happy to serious job for him. I don’t think he’s about to,” he said.
And he was keen to have a clean campaign.
“I don’t normally do negative on campaigns. I think it’s important to give an honest account to your electors of what you have done and give them a straightforward account of what you want to do next, because it’s mainly about what you’re going to do next that should interest them,” he said.
And Sir John is also proud of his record for Wokingham.
He said: “I’m enormously proud of the community and I’ve always been very proud to serve it and I’m glad we’ve had some, some victories and some wins together – everything from getting a new station through to making a breakthrough on school funding, through to beginning to change the policy towards economies and jobs and real incomes.
“These are all important things and there’s dozens of other things I’ve been doing over the years.
“So you get a great feeling when you pick up something the community wants. You, you’re the advocate for community and then it then actually happens – it’s great. It’s a huge privilege to do it.”