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 Lewisham West and Penge’s Ellie Reeves.
Ellie Reeves is no stranger to politics. An employment rights lawyer who branched out on her own to represent women with maternity rights issues, she is now following in the footsteps of older sister Rachel, who became MP for Leeds West in 2010 and served as a shadow minister under Ed Miliband.
Here’s her 17 from ’17 interview:
Where were you born and raised?
In Lewisham West and Penge - I grew up in Sydenham and went to primary school there and secondary school in Penge.
What did you want to be when you were 16?
A teacher. My parents are both teachers and education has always been a bit of a passion of mine, although it’s fair to say that my parents put up with so much in the 80s and 90s in terms of cuts and things, that they were not particularly enthusiastic about me going into the profession. Things did get better for them in the late 90s, but it was suggested to me that I might want to think about something else.
When did you first become interested in politics?
I think I’ve always been interested in politics. I remember when I was really young, it must have been around the 1987 election, we had the news on and my dad said: “That’s Neil Kinnock, that’s Labour, that’s who we vote for.”
I joined the party when I was about 15 and got really stuck into the 1997 election - my form tutor at school had arranged for me to have work experience with one of the Lewisham MPs at the time - and in my first year of A Levels I told them I wouldn’t be coming to school for a week because I was going off to campaign in the general election.
Who is your political hero?
Oh gosh, that’s an interesting question. I think someone who inspired me when I was younger was Nelson Mandela, growing up and watching the Free Mandela concerts on TV.
Who is your favourite politician from another party?
I would say Jo Swinson, because of the work she has done around maternity rights.
I have a two-and-a-half-year-old who has been into Parliament with me, who has been through the voting lobby and Jo and others have led the way on that - they have made it a much more family-friendly place than it used to be.
What did you do before becoming an MP?
I was an employment rights lawyer. I spent about 10 years working in trade union law. After I had my own son I set up my own business providing maternity discrimination advice to women.
If you could run any government department, which would it be?
Probably justice, actually. Issues around access to justice are really important to me - you can have all the laws in the world, but if people can’t afford to go to court and enforce their rights, then a lot of it becomes meaningless.
There is still an awful lot of work that needs to be done around access to justice and I think it’s something I could use my experience to help on.
What was the last book you read?
It takes me forever to read a book because I have a two-year-old. I’ve just finished the last book in the Shardlake series, which is a sort of murder mystery set in Tudor times. It’s taken me about six months with a really dog-eared copy.
I’ve also got a Margaret Attwood book that’s been sitting on top of the bookcase for about a year that I haven’t even attempted to start yet. She is my favourite author.
Who is your favourite band/artist?
Wow. I don’t have much time for music these days, but but my all-time favourite band is the Manic Street Preachers. I used to go to lots of gigs and things when I was younger.
What’s your favourite film?
I’d love to say something really deep and meaningful, but it’s probably Gladiator. It’s just a great, epic film.
What is the one thing you would change about UK politics if you could?
I would like to make it more accessible for people. I don’t think that age, wealth, having a family or anything like that should be a barrier to going into politics. I think a lot of work has been done, for example to get more women into Parliament, but still more work needs to be done and I think a lot of that is making things more family-friendly. It can still be very difficult for people to put themselves forward for selection.
I also think it’s really important that people bring skills and experience from outside, rather than just having people who have always worked in politics in Parliament.
Which three words would your best friend use to describe you?
Well, my best friend is the newly-elected MP for Barnsley East, Steph Peacock. We have been best friends for years and years and were elected to Parliament on the same day and did our maiden speeches on the same day. It’s been really nice because we’ve been able to support each other.
I think she’d describe me as fun, hard-working and supportive.