POLITICS
15/02/2018 12:42 GMT

17 From '17: Vicky Ford: 'I've Been In A Classroom When A Bomb Has Gone Off'

The Conservative MP is one to watch as Brexit rumbles on

 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 Vicky Ford.

Vicky Ford may be new to Parliament, but she’s not new to parliaments. The now Chelmsford MP spent eight years as a Member of the European Parliament, where she became an expert on the Single Market.

Ford campaigned for Remain in the EU Referendum, and was on the cusp of voting against her party when it came to ensuring Parliament had a ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal - until Chancellor Philip Hammond guided her towards the Government’s voting lobby, 

For someone so outspoken on many issues, Ford was strangely coy on her favourite music...

Here’s Vicky Ford’s 17 from ’17 interview: 

Parliament

1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Omagh, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. My parents were both English doctors. My father had fallen in love with the Northern Ireland countryside there as a child and they had moved there to be doctors.

There was a huge amount of love, it was a very, very loving community. My parents were very involved with the local community.

I’m probably one of the few Members of Parliament who knows what it’s like to be in a classroom when a bomb goes off.

That makes you very aware of how precious peace is. My father stood for the Alliance Party, building out bridges between different communities.

My father very sadly died when I was ten in an electrical accident which has always made me very aware of safety issues. I guess that makes you a fighter as well when you have issues going on in your childhood.

My father, before he died, encouraged me to think high and his college at Cambridge had just accepted women and I remember him saying to me: ‘You could apply to this now.’ I did, I set my aim high, and I got a place at Trinity College, Cambridge to read Maths

2) What did you want to be when you were 16?

The really bizarre thing is my sister once reminded me that I wanted to be an international lawyer, which actually when you think about what I’ve done in terms of international law is actually got similar. Never thought I would be a politician. I think I wanted to win a Nobel Prize but that’s never going to happen.

3) When did you first become interested in politics?

Maybe a bit seeing my father standing in those elections, but I think really at the time of 9/11 I was working at the top of Canary Wharf tower and decisions that were being made by Tony Blair and the politicians around him directly affected ones own family’s security.

There were a number of us that felt very disillusioned by what we saw happening in Westminster - the lack of focus by politicians on people of the country and because the decisions were so relevant to one’s own personal security we were following the conversations very, very closely.

4) Who is your political hero?

That’s quite difficult. I’ve given Condoleezza Rice as an example of a woman I saw making a difference on the world stage and being brave enough to travel it.

I would say in terms of political heroes, that would be a woman role model. Not without controversy, very intelligent, fiercely bright, out there trying to lead for change, impressive.

I was once lucky enough to sit next to her at lunch and pick her brains, and boy is she bright.

I was chairing a lunch discussion with her which she was discussing geo-political risk - the massive big picture, long-term threats to stability in different parts of the world and the tectonic plate movements between the Middle East, Russia and Europe and the American influence. Mighty bright woman.

PA Archive/PA Images
 Tony Blair with Condoleezza Rice when she was US Secretary of State.

5) Who is your favorite politician from another party? 

Does it have to be British? I can’t answer that. I worked from lots of politicians from other parties during my time in the European Parliament on different issues.

There was a network in the European Parliament of especially strong women who had specialisms in different areas.

I worked with a Scottish Labour colleague on lots of different issues which affect British business - Catherine Stihler.

She was a strong, powerful, Scottish Labour MEP who there was a lot of common interest. If Catherine and I could bring stuff together, we would feel we could get something through.

 

Thierry Monasse via Getty Images
Labour MEP Catherine Stihler.

6) What did you do before becoming an MP?

I went to Cambridge but decided maths wasn’t for me and ended up with a degree in economics and went to go and work for JP Morgan, who offered me a job in New York. I ended up working for them for 12 years.

I was involved in lots of projects putting infrastructure around the world. I helped raise the money for the first mobile phone networks. I helped get the first investments from the Western world into Eastern Europe after the Wall came down.

We raised the money for the first investment in South Africa at the end of apartheid, which was to put money into putting electricity into the townships to help small businesses develop in the townships in South Africa, so I was very much there involved in some really really interesting projects and making investment give opportunities all around Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

By the time I left the City I had three small children, I was married to a hospital oncologist and we decided to move out of London, step back, and that was when I started getting interested in local politics, and then national politics. I stood in the 2005 election in Birmingham Northfield.

After that I was asked if I would apply to go on the Europe list. I have never seen myself as pro-European politician. I am still concerned about the red-tape that comes from Europe and it often feels out of touch but it was enormously important for our country at that time that we had some British MEPs who understood business, understand finance. I arrived in the European Parliament in 2009 just after the financial crisis, and it was very clear that we were going to need to work with Europe on a huge amount of financial services reform. 

7) If you could run any Government department which would it be?

You say any answer to any of those questions in this scenario and people think you’re out for throwing knives in. I am very, very, very happy on the backbenches.

8) What was the last book you read? 

I read something good over Christmas but I simply can’t remember. It was fiction. Chick-lit.

9) Who is your favourite band or artist? 

I’m going to have to say the Chelmsford chap who makes the amazing pots…Grayson Perry.

HuffPost UK: We were thinking more music artists...

No, I’m not going to do that either. I’m not answering that question. I’ll get in too much trouble for answering those questions, I’ll get too much teasing from my kids.

[After the interview, Ford emailed to say: “If you do need to have a band to register for my interview, you can use Clean Bandit and if you would like a book, use the Watch Maker’s Daughter.”]

10) What’s your favourite film?

The film I’ve watched most recently was The Darkest Hour. It’s fantastic. I came away with an enormously strong message of resilience.

11) What one thing would you change about UK politics if you could?

The House of Commons is very reactive to the immediate news of the day. Which means sometimes it’s quite difficult to take a longer term view. The European Parliament didn’t get it right either. That was not reactive enough to the news of the day and ended up being out of touch with the events because the calendar would be set two/three weeks before.

If there was a way that we could encourage politicians to take a longer term view to find solutions as well as being able to react to short-term events.

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

Probably ‘bloody difficult woman’ - I hope so.