POLITICS

17 From '17: Stephen Morgan Tells Of His Meteoric Political Rise And Answers An Age Old Question

Labour's surprise victor in Portsmouth tells all about his political journey.

26/10/2017 10:01 BST
HuffPost UK

The 2017 General Election saw 92 MPs elected to the Commons for the very first time. In a series of exclusive interviews, HuffPost UK is speaking to new MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, SNP and Lib Dems. This week, it’s Stephen Morgan, of Portsmouth South.

Stephen Morgan’s journey through the political ranks has been a very swift one.  Elected a Portsmouth city councillor in 2016, he was made Labour group leader just a few months later, following the resignation of his predecessor in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Morgan entered Parliament after little more than a year - prompting his local paper to praise his “meteoric rise”. 

We caught up with him to talk election tips, Blue Peter badges and answer that all-important question: Oasis or Blur?

Here’s his 17 from ’17 interview:

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Fratton in my constituency, in the heart of Portsmouth, and raised in the city I now represent.

What did you want to be when you were 16?

It was a bit of a toss-up between wanting to be a teacher or a Blue Peter presenter.  At a young age I was fortunate enough to get a Blue Peter badge for cleaning out the school pond. 

But then I realised I probably wouldn’t be able to do interviews while on a trampoline, so I thought the teaching direction would be the right one to take.

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Stephen Morgan was lucky enough to net himself a Blue Peter badge.

When did you first become interested in politics?

I joined the Labour Party when I was 16 and started to get involved in politics at that age. 

One of my first memories was the dreadful telling duty - so being stood outside a church in Fratton basically asking people for their polling card number in the 1997 general election, with my dad. 

That was the first proper political involvement I ever had.  But before then, I came from a family that had always been really active in the local community; my mum was a school governor and my sister a Rainbow and Guides leader and my dad helped set up the local community centre, so I was always involved in civic opportunities.  It was a bit of a no-brainer to go into politics at some point in my life.

When I finished at university I went to work in local government, but I was in a politically sensitive job, so while I could be a member of the Labour Party I couldn’t campaign or canvass.  I did a variety of roles in local government, which was excellent, working at organisations that meet local needs.

More recently I worked in the voluntary sector, which freed me up from the political restrictions and allowed me to stand for the city council in Portsmouth.  I got elected onto the city council in 2016, and then a year later into Parliament.

Who is your political hero?

Clement Attlee.  I would also say Nelson Mandela, as I have a huge sense of pride when I walk past his statue on the Southbank. 

Who is your favourite politician from another party?

Can I say Obama?

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Former US President Barack Obama.

What did you do before becoming an MP? 

My last job was chief executive of a charity, which did things like provide support to other charities to flourish.  We also ran a service to support young carers - children as young as six who look after their parents - and a centre to support rough sleepers.  I absolutely loved that opportunity to run services, often on a shoestring, that would make huge differences to people’s lives.

Alongside that I was obviously also a city councillor, a trustee of Age UK in Portsmouth and governor at my old school.

If you could run any government department, which would it be?

I really want to see every young person in my city succeed in life, so a huge priority for me is making sure we get a much better deal for our schools.  I feel like the Tories are under-investing in education, so I think it would have to be the education department. 

What was the last book you read?

It was a book called 101 Ways to Win an Election written by some Lib Dems. Thankfully they didn’t win in Portsmouth! 

On that, the Lib Dems were telling everyone to vote tactically but people were tired of that tired message and being told what to do. On the doorstep we realised something was going on.  We had nurses and teachers all saying they were going to vote Labour, and I think that was because we offered a very positive message - one of hope. 

We didn’t put hundreds of leaflets out, and we focused on issues, not personalities, on the sort of city we wanted to see and the values and ideas we see as important, and that shone through in the end.  I think it’s about keeping focused, being positive and engaging with people on the issues that matter to them.

Who is your favourite band/artist?

So at the moment I am kind of reliving that teenage question on whether I like Oasis or Blur more.  At the time it was Blur, and now I think it’s Oasis, because their songs aren’t songs - they’re anthems. 

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During the election campaign obviously the party got the support of Stormzy, so a bit of grime is something a bit different.

In the office we tend to listen to Classic FM, but I think that’s for the calming influence before I go into the chamber.

Oasis probably beats all that though.

What’s your favourite film?

I’m a big fan of foreign and international films, so I really like Amelie.  The message in there about helping others is really important. 

Iris, the film about Iris Murdoch, made me get quite upset because it reminded me of the experience of my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s, and the lack of support that was available for her at the time, and the fact we have a crisis in social care.  We need to do more to support those who have paid into the system all their lives.

What is the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could?

As someone that’s new to politics, one of my frustrations is that sometimes politicians focus too much on personalities and people and not on the values we want to see in our country, or the practical ideas to make them a reality.  I only wish that more across the House would focus on the challenges that people face and ways to make things better, rather than talking about individuals and what’s wrong with them.

Which three words would your best friend use to describe you?

I think it probably depends how many drinks they’ve had down the pub - and what I’ve done.  I think they’d probably say passionate, engaging and...hard-working?  I feel like I’m being interviewed for a job.