Image Credit: Cheffey
Last week, I conducted an interview with Julian Sturdy MP. He is the MP for the York Outer constituency which contains the University of York campus. I asked him about a range of student and national issues to understand his views and how his work can affect students.
Firstly, I asked about how his work was affected by having the University of York in his constituency. He answered by stating the benefits that students bring to the City of York, specifically economically and socially. Furthermore, he emphasised how he serves students through having monthly conversations with the Vice-Chancellor, Charlie Jeffery, and working closely with a variety of university groups.
Given that he emphasised the importance of the University to his constituency, I wanted to understand his views on a variety of current student issues. On the topic of the swelling conversation among students of spikings, he said that it was “really worrying, extremely worrying” and highlighted how it was something which he had considered on a personal level given that his two children are of near-university age.
In terms of solutions, he advocated for a “bigger police presence obviously” and “tougher, quicker sentencing” whilst also highlighting the need for conversations with the hospitality industry, particularly places where the reports of spikings are concentrated. He admitted that “awareness and prevention [are] absolutely key” and that there is “not a straightforward answer to this […] but [it is] a matter of urgency.”
One of the biggest issues affecting students is the possibility of their lecturers taking part in industrial action in the next few months, something which Mr Sturdy condemned in all possible terms, stating that “[He doesn’t] want to see any industrial action at this time”. He thought it was “concerning” and “disappointing” following the pandemic which affected students’ learning massively. He stated that at this time students “need support of lecturers and access to their lecturers” rather than industrial action affecting their studies.
When asked about his actions to prevent strikes occurring or a role in negotiations, he said that this would be a key issue in his upcoming conversation with the Vice-Chancellor in the next few weeks, but that he had not had the opportunity to take action yet given that the strikes had only just been announced.
Next, I asked about a series of events which were specific to Yorkshire, but that also hold national significance. On the topic of the upcoming Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner by-election on 25 November, he said that it was correct that Philip Allott had resigned and that the “right course of action has materialised”. He also noted that the Conservative party had chosen a candidate standing in the election.
There has also been a recent and continuing story of reports of institutional racism within Yorkshire County Cricket Club by multiple players, most notably Azeem Rafiq. He said that these were “horrific” and that any form of racism must be stamped out both within cricket and across all sports.
On 18 November, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, visited York railway station and was greeted by Mr Sturdy following the announcement of the new integrated rail plan, which contained news of the scrapping of the high speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester. Mr Sturdy said he had “mixed views on the new integrated rail plan” and was choosing to focus on the investment in existing infrastructure such as the Eastern mainline and the Trans Pennine route, despite being “disappointed for our region”.
He added that he was pleased that the Prime Minister recognised the importance of York, specifically the importance of rail to the city and “although [the Prime Minister] was only there for 20 minutes, [Mr Sturdy] thought that it was really good that he made sure that he spent time in the station”. Mr Sturdy spent the time lobbying the Prime Minister to put the new headquarters of the rail centre in York.
Finally, I chose to ask Mr Sturdy about his thoughts on the recent Tory sleaze scandal, something which he had made a statement about previously. I asked about his thoughts on the Prime Minister’s plans to introduce reforms on MPs holding second jobs. He said that he supported the Prime Minister and was looking forward to the recommendations by a cross-party committee on the issue being published in January.
This interview was conducted on Friday 19 November 2021.