The future of politics

talks to former York student and Tory MP for Norwich North Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith won the by-election for Norwich North in 2009 with a significant majority. Photo: Conservative Party

Chloe Smith won the by-election for Norwich North in 2009 with a significant majority. Photo: Conservative Party

“As a Conservative, I may not agree with Dr Gibson’s views on everything, but I am determined to represent the people of Norwich North with the same honesty and conviction.”

These were the first words of Chloe Smith when she became the Member of Parliament for Norwich North in July last year. Now, less than a year later, Smith is fighting to win her second term in office.

The 27-year-old has impressive qualifications for a career in politics, so much so that it was feared that she would rise up the ranks of the Conservative Party too quickly. Fortunately, Smith hasn’t followed in the footsteps of Theresa Villiers and doesn’t show any signs of doing so.

“The only thing I’ve focused on for the last year, and really for the foreseeable future, is being a very good constituency MP,” – a clear indication that the University of York graduate hasn’t changed her opinion since those first words in July last year.

Conservative female MPs are few and far between, especially young ones. Margaret Thatcher and Justine Greening were 33 and 40 respectively when they first entered into Parliament, and are the most notable young Tories of recent time.

Yet, like the first words she spoke when becoming an MP, the bright lights and temptation of a Parliamentary career don’t faze her.

“I’m in a very lucky position and it’s been an enormous honour to experience what I have in the last year. Some of what happened, happened by chance it’s fair to say. I was thrown into it much earlier than I anticipated.”

It’s a good start for a young woman who wants to keep integrity at the heart of her representation. One can only hope that in the future, all politicians won’t be whipped by their party and stand up for the people that voted for them.

She insists that York gave her a stable, enjoyable and challenging three years

“I haven’t yet encountered that clash yet, let’s just put it that way. But then I guess so far I’ve had a shortened Parliamentary career.” Thankfully, Smith cites her time at the University of York as one of the reasons for her success.

She insists that York is a “very strong University” which gave her a “stable, enjoyable and challenging three years. York gave me a good starting point. First of all, it gives you an excellent qualification to go on with. From University in my case, I went off into the world of Business – I went to work for Deloitte, one of the big law firms – and frankly you need a good degree for that.”

Despite Smith getting a first in English literature though, she insists there’s more to University than just academia, especially when it comes to future employment. “Although many people go into politics or anything else with more academic qualifications, I’m not saying that’s the only thing in life, but in my case that was the route that I took.” The young Conservative says that she’s always been interested in politics, perhaps further evidence of her strong principles when she insists she won’t be taken in by Party whips. Before coming to York, Smith spent a gap year working in Westminster for Bernhard Jenkin and Gillian Shephard, the former shadow education secretary, whom Smith describes as “an excellent role model.

ABOUT CHLOE SMITH

Elected: July 23 2009 after the sitting Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson resigned in the wake of the MP’s expenses scandal.

Education: Read English literature at the University of York gaining a First Class Honours. She attened a comprehensive schools in both Swatham and Methwold.

Career: After leaving university Smith joined Deloitte where she was an advisor to various organisations before moving into Politics.

Seat: Located in Norfolk, the constituency of Norwich North is set to be a key marginal seat in the upcoming election, with Smith hoping she will not lose her seat after just ten months in the job.

Ambitions: Rather than racing toward a ministerial post in governmet, Smith insists she wants focus on doing the best she can for her constituents.

Charity: Smith took part in a British Heart Foundation fundraising expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro.

Views: Supports lower taxation and opposes the Lisbon Treaty.

“I got interested in politics when I was about 16. I got to know my local MP in South West Norfolk and I was starting to set up a youth forum with people across the county. That was my starting point. Quite apolitical in one sense, but from that point I became quite interested in Westminster politics and slowly realised that it would be something I would perhaps aspire to.”

Smith’s gap year took place during the 9/11 terrorism attacks, an event which has moulded her political ideas.

“I was in Parliament at the time, sitting almost directly under Big Ben when the planes went into the towers and we were all watching it on TV and some of us were thinking, ‘Oh crickey, here we are’. It was quite a political backdrop to come to University, so I shared some political debates about that and was keen to make sure we didn’t throw the baby out of the bath water.

“I think that’s what I’d say was my political stance at the time. I have strongly maintained that there’s such a thing as terrorism and it should always be condemned. It holds innocent people hostage and destroys lives.”

Once at University, the young MP took steps to further interest in politics. “I was in the Conservative Party at the time, I also helped run the French society, a tiny society in which we used to watch French films. The big one for me, in terms of my studies, was that I was also a Course Rep. The other big one was that I was Chairman of the United Nations Association in my final year, so that was something that I took a real interest in throughout.

“These weren’t in the service of later politics though, these were just things I was interested in. There was no grand plan at that point.”

Despite being a “Norfolk girl through and through”, Smith is a Conservative MP and is “confident” that her party will be in power on Friday morning.

“I’m very positive. I think the country is strongly seeking a new direction and the vast majority of people I’m speaking to are seeking a fresh start. I’m confident that David Cameron will be able to turn that into a strong position.

“I don’t buy the principle reforms that Clegg offers, and actually Brown has lately espoused in a final dash to try to save his skin, and that is to say that I don’t think PR really works for people. I think that you’ve got to have a constituency link to a constituency MP.”

Finally, the York graduate gives her advice to current students: “Throw yourself into anything that interests you and make sure you make friends, enjoy yourself and learn a few things along the way.

“I reject this whole idea of being a career politician. All I’ve done at any different point is get involved in things that interest me where I feel I can contribute something. That’s really important to me.”

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