The 2015 General Election saw 176 MPs elected to the Commons for the very first time. In a series of exclusive interviews, The Huffington Post UK is speaking to MPs from the 2015 intake of the Conservatives, Labour and SNP. This week, it's the extremely decent Ranil Jayawardena...
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It was without doubt one of the most unsavoury moments of last year's General Election campaign.
Robert Blay, the Ukip candidate in the seat of North East Hampshire, was caught on camera saying he would "personally put a bullet" in Tory contender Ranil Jayawardena if he ever became Prime Minister.
Mr Blay, who was subsequently suspended by Ukip, also attacked Mr Jayawardena's Sri Lankan-born father, claiming he had "ponced off" the UK when he emigrated here in the 1970s.
The comments hit the headlines less than a week before polling day, meaning it was too late for Mr Blay's name to be removed from the ballot paper.
Mr Jayawerdena had the last laugh, seeing Mr Blay languish in fourth place while he grew the Tory majority from 18,597 to 29,916.
In his 15 from '15 interview, Mr Jayawardena expressed his continued anger at the way his family was insulted by his Ukip rival, as well as his love of Sir Robert Peel and admiration for the Labour leader of Manchester Council.
Here is Ranil Jayawardena's 15 from '15:
1) Where were you born and raised?
I was born in London but raised in Hampshire in my constituency, which is why it’s such an enormous privilege to represent it.
2) What did you want to be when you were 16 years old?
I wanted to enter the Law. I wanted to become a barrister because I saw that as a way of applying the law to society and law and order is still one of my issues I’m particularly interested in. I was very interested in making sure the law was applied fairly but also properly and robustly because I didn’t think that was the case. I was interested in criminal justice and so on and maybe part of that was my father was a magistrate and still serves as a magistrate.
3) When did you first become interested in politics?
When I was at school I was interested in it because of the way I saw it affect people’s lives but I only became politically active in the 2005 General Election, so when I was at college, then more active when I was at university – the London School of Economics, which is a political hotbed. I stood for council in 2007 in Basingstoke and Deane, stood again in 2008 in what is now my constituency and represented that until last May.
4) Do you have any political heroes?
‘Hero’ is an unfortunate turn of phrase because it almost implies there is someone you are robustly following but as far as the term can be mitigated I think someone I really do think made a massive impact to our country is Robert Peel, who, of course, created the modern police service.
The police do such an amazing job at keeping us safe and that was as a result ultimately of what he started – a non-militarised, policing-by-consent model, which is so different from the rest of the world. The second thing he did that was so powerful was the Tamworth manifesto, because he cast a modern Conservative Party. He set out that the Conservative Party had to change and reflect the country of the day, not the country of yesterday. In many ways David Cameron has done the same now.
5) Who is your favourite politician from another party who is currently still active?
That’s an easy one: Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council. He’s a Labour councilor who runs a very Labour council. It’s not for any political reason but the principle reason that he and his Chief Executive officer have carried forward the idea that Greater Manchester should work together and over the last 20 years they, independent of government, have been pushing that agenda.
6) What did you do for a living before becoming an MP?
A local councilor, which was a great privilege, and that has given me a great basis to represent people here. I also worked in the City for Lloyds Bank in various different roles, originally in capital markets. I also worked in corporate banking for a time and worked with mid-sized businesses, which are a key area in the British economy.
HP: What was your reaction to your rival Ukip candidate Robert Blay, who was caught on camera saying he wanted to "personally put a bullet" into you, and also that your father “ponced off us” when he emigrated from Sri Lanka to the UK in the 1970s?
It was shock. We knew that he held views that were not to dissimilar to the ones he espoused and was caught espousing. He had made his views very clear to people off the record, door-to-door. We knew he was bad mouthing me. What we didn’t know was that this was what he believed.
I was shocked, but I was doubly shocked because he wasn’t only attacking me but it was an attack on my family, on Alison and on Daisy and also on my father. It’s one thing to insult someone but it’s another thing to insult someone and get your facts epically wrong.
He suggested that my father came to this country, and I think his words were something to the effect of that he came to this country to sponge off benefits. It couldn’t be more from the truth. My father has never claimed a penny in benefits. He came here from Sri Lanka in the seventies, and indeed Rob Blay elicited this information from my father when my father was helping me on he campaign. My father is the nicest man and answered an honest question with an honest answer and he used this information against my father and me.
My father came here in the seventies, worked in security while he was learning his trade to become an accountant, he worked as an accountant, also worked for the financial regulator, set up his own business. That’s a positive story. And now he’s contributing to society as a magistrate – voluntary service.
Rob Blay couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s one thing to attack me but it’s another thing to attack my family and I thought it was terribly wrong and I have to say one thing I was very disappointed about was that Ukip didn’t ever contact me before the election to apologise. They said that they apologised via the BBC but they never apologised to me although I have to say one of the first things Douglas Carswell did when I was elected was come and apologise to me on a personal level and I appreciated that.
[At the count] I didn’t speak to him, he didn’t seek to speak to me. I’m a Christian, I go to church every so often and I want to forgive someone. He has not once apologized to me. He believes, I’m told, he was dealt with unfairly by Ukip so one could argue he is holding the views he has set out and worse. He was asked by the media at the count, twice I believe, ‘Do you apologise for your remarks?’ and he refused to do so. Then he sought to shake my hand after the result had been declared and I’m afraid I refused his handshake and I stand by that decision, and indeed the majority of my constituents who contacted me post the election have agreed with me.
A man like Robert Blay has no place in public life and he should not be welcomed in any way.
7) What do you do to relax?
I do love going out for a walk, either in my village or popping down the Basingstoke canal in the village that my wife, Alison, grew up in. It’s nice to go for a walk as it’s something all three of us can do together: Alison, myself and my baby daughter Daisy. It’s a moment where, more often than not, there’s no mobile signal so that’s lovely. That tends to be what we’re doing at the moment.
8) If you could run any Government department which would you run?
My first answer has to be it’s been brilliant to be elected for my home constituency; that right now is the only thing I’m thinking about. I’m on the Home Affairs Select Committee and that’s given me a real insight into the world of the Home Office and clearly they are many great challenges the Home Office faces.
9) What is the last book you read?
I can’t remember! I used to read on holiday, I used to read a bit of fiction as it’s nice to zone out from time to time.
10) Who is your favourite band or artist?
I don’t know who my favourite of all time would be but someone I’m listening to now is a girl called Birdy. She’s from the New Forest and does some very nice acoustic work.
11) Would you rather go on X Factor, Great British Bake Off or Strictly Come Dancing?
Well I haven’t got he X Factor, so that’s no. I have no coordination, so it can’t be Strictly, although I do love the program. So Bake Off by default, but I’d resign myself to leaving very earlier.
12) What’s been the biggest change since becoming an MP?
Time management. I’ve become better at it but at the same time it’s very difficult still. Before I had my job, and I had my council responsibilities, I had my political responsibilities and my family, so lots of different things. Now I have one all encompassing thing that never stops.
13) What’s the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could?
Can I cheat and say two things? One is the localism as I really do believe in greater devolution and I believe it needs local government to up its game too.
The second thing I would like to see is politicians of any political persuasion able to say that this is what they believe, make decisions if they are in government and stand by them and not be vilified for taking a decision they genuinely believe in.
14) What one reason would you give someone to visit your constituency?
It’s just the most wonderful place. For anyone coming down from London it’s very easy to get to. It’s a prosperous area. It’s a place you can genuinely enjoy yourself.
15) Which three words would your best friend use to describe you?
You’d have to ask my best friend. I’d hope they would say hard-working and dedicated. I try and do my best.