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 Paul Masterton.
He had been in Parliament less than six months before making news as one of the 15 ‘Brexit Mutineers’ plastered across the front page of the Daily Telegraph.
But Paul Masterton is showing no signs of letting such attacks getting the better of him.
The East Renfrewshire MP is determined not to allow Brexit to be delivered by MPs who are “happy-clappy cheering like a seal every time someone says we’re leaving the European Union.”
While Masterton doesn’t want his party to live in the past, his musical tastes seem to be stuck in an Ibiza nightclub circa 2001, and the less said about the 32-year-old’s favourite film choices, the better…
Here’s Paul Masterton’s 17 from ’17 interview:
Where were you born and raised?
I’m from Edinburgh originally and then went up to uni in Dundee, and that’s where I met my wife. I studied law. She was at the art school. Met her there and she was from the west. After uni I lived in Belfast for a little bit and then moved over to Glasgow. We’ve been together 11 years and been married for five and a bit. From the floor of Dundee Student’s Union to the floor of the Commons, she’s carried me every step.
What did you want to be when you were 16?
Genuinely I had no idea, and that was one of the main reasons why I ended up doing law. It had a path. I certainly didn’t want to be a politician. I think at that point I was just being 16 and thought, as many 16 year olds do, that you’ll be young forever and don’t need to make those sort of decisions.
When did you first become interested in politics?
I’ve always been interested. I remember the 1992 election when I was six. Back then you were still allowed to put all the posters up on your lamp post and I remember every one had five posters on it and asking my mum and dad what this was all about. All through uni I was interested in politics, and with the Scottish Parliament we used to have more elections than you guys and I remember getting beers in and staying up through the night with mates watching the results come in. I wasn’t so active or overly engaged but I was aware of what was going on.
For me, the big kick wasn’t so much the independence referendum, where I found that whole period awful and stayed out of it, but it was the ’15 General Election when the Nats basically won everything. I just remember at that point the whole map of Scotland basically being lurid, luminous yellow, and they were dominant at every level, and just thinking that Scotland is going down a path that I’m not happy with and do I just want to be someone who moans down the pub or do I want to be fighting for what I believe in and fighting to win my country back really. I joined the day after the 2015 General Election.
I’d always voted Conservative, but in many ways rather unthinkingly. I’m very much a Cameron/Davidson child in terms of they took me from being a Conservative voter to a Conservative supporter to an activist to an MP.
Who is your political hero?
I’m not the sort of person who’s bookshelf is stacked with political autobiographies and I don’t hang portraits of politicians on my walls.
I would actually say David Cameron, in the sense that he made me feel comfortable and proud in my Conservative skin in a way that before hand there was still too much about the party that I didn’t like and I didn’t feel comfortable with and that I found would have blocked me from ever actually standing up on a Conservative platform.
Part of it was the modernisation of social issues which was a big help for me. I’m not socially conservative at all and for me some of the baggage around the party was a huge barrier to me every becoming more than just a voter.
Cameron showed what modern, liberal conservatism can do, it can speak to a coalition of voters far broader than what we’re speaking to at the moment.
I’ve always been very, very clear that the Conservative Party when looking at the voters it wants to win shouldn’t be wanting to become Ukip-lite. I’m very concerned that we don’t see our future as tacking right, and part of my job here, particularly as someone who represents an urban, modern professional seat, is to ensure that if we’re talking, not so much about right-left but about open-closed, that open wins every time.
I remember reading Johnny Mercer said in an interview ‘I didn’t come here to be a member of the Conservative Party from the 1990s’. That’s the exact same for me. I’ve no interest in that. My big worry is a lot of the good work that was done to modernise, and - I don’t like the phrase ‘de-toxify’ - but to make voting Conservative more appealing or understandable to a broader generation we rather quickly seem to have undone a lot of work that seems to have took years and years to have done in large parts of the country.
Who is your favorite politician from another party?
I’m really good mates with David Linden who is one of the new SNP guys from Glasgow East, we’re kind of at similar phases in our lives. We used to get the same commuter train into Glasgow in our old life. There are some very, very impressive people on the Labour backbenches who shouldn’t be on the Labour backbenches. Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, Stella Creasy - people who are able to stand and command the attention of the House when they speak and are wasted completely. There’s some very good campaigning MPs as well who are perhaps never destined to go on and do big things but they know how to take an issue and run with it.
What did you do before becoming an MP?
I was a pensions specialist solicitor - as glamorous as it sounds. For 10 years I worked for a law firm in Glasgow specialising in pensions.
If you could run any Government department which would it be?
Genuinely I haven’t thought about that. I should probably say DCMS for the freebies, and after Matt Hancock was picture with Rita Ora the other night I will definitely go for DCMS.
What was the last book you read?
I’m reading Fall Out. It’s really odd to be reading it from when you’re on the inside.
Who is your favourite band or artist?
I have a terrible taste in music. Should I give you a cool answer here? The real answer is I listen to a lot of 90s dance music so basically if it was on a Pete Tong Euphoria compilation from between 1998 and 2003 I probably listen to that.
The album I’ve been listening to a lot at the moment is by JONES called New Skin. She’s a London RnB solo artist. I love dance music, I love anything by a girl band and I love anything by Carly Rae Jepson.
I used to have these dreadful blonde highlights, but it was pointless because I was ginger so you could barely see them. I had a tongue piercing that glowed under UV light so when you were in a nightclub…[descends into laughter].
What’s your favourite film? Sister Act or Mean Girls. Why are you laughing? Both are classics.
What one thing would you change about UK politics if you could?
It’s still not as accessible to most of the public as it could or should be. There’s still a lack of awareness about what MPs do. There’s a lot of people who have said to my wife: “So is Paul just an MP in his spare time?”. There’s people who just fundamentally don’t understand how our parliament and how our democracy functions and how our country runs. I wish there was a way of getting more people down to visit, whether it’s through schools in terms of what they are learning through modern studies and whatever the English equivalent of that is. Our political debate would be much healthier if everybody knew a little bit more.
Which three words would your best friend use to describe you?
Ginger, laid-back, happy.