Nouse Interviews... Julian Sturdy MP


The MP for York Outer discusses his priorities for the constituency moving forward

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Image by That's TV York

By Eleanor Longman-Rood

We're in a new year and a new decade, did you have any resolutions?

I’ve been focused on making sure we got our fair share of funding for York. We’ve obviously got more money pledged into the NHS, but York has traditionally been underfunded. It’s the same for education.

You’ve brought us straight into politics. What were your first thoughts when you heard we were going to have another general election?

I think it was inevitable. We’d had two difficult years since the last general election because there wasn’t a majority government. Ultimately, it broke the deadlock, which I’m very pleased about.

As the Prime Minister pledged to do, we are now out of the EU. How do you see the transition period unfolding?

We are now into the real details of it and the most important phase. I do want to see a deal with the European Union and I very much hope we can achieve that over 2020. The hope is that we get the negotiations going quickly and get them completed by the end of the year.

You have hope that this will be achieved in the year?

I do because it’s in both our interests, we need to do it for our economy but I think it’s just as important for the EU to be able to do that as well for their economy. There’s benefits for both sides to be able to come up with a future trade arrangement that is beneficial for both sides. Also, you have  to remember that we aren’t starting with a blank piece of paper, are we? We go into these trade deals that the European Union have taken six to eight years to deliver, they’ve gone in with a blank piece of paper. We are going in where a lot of our environmental regulation and food standard regulations are already aligned so I think it will naturally because of that be much easier to get to that point where we can deliver an agreement much quicker.

Congratulations on holding on to your seat. What are your priorities for the constituency moving forward?

A big issue is NHS funding that I mentioned earlier. Education is another one, we’ve had an increase in funding that’s been announced at a 6 per cent increase to schools across York Outer. But we’ve got to make sure that continues, because we are at the lower end of the scale for pupil funding. For transport, we need to continue improvement for the northern ring road as the A64 is a big priority for the local economy. But also, it’s about rail improvements as I’m going to campaign for a station at Haxby.

We’ll get into climate shortly. Recently, Anna Firth wrote in Conservative Home how she doesn’t like how students have the option to vote in their home towns or where they go to university, she is calling for reform in this. What do you think of this?

Firstly, it’s illegal to vote in two places. I haven’t seen the article – was she talking about trying to stop electoral fraud?

More from a tactical voting aspect

So, if you’ve got the option to vote in two places; you can decide where your vote counts most? Right, I think if I’m honest it’s something we ought to look at.

Not everyone has that option or flexibility. If you are going to go down that road, you need to make sure it applies to everyone, rather than it being something only targeted to ward students who can vote and university and at home. You can have people where they might have two residences and have that opportunity, or if they have two properties in different areas. If you do it from that point of view where it’s treated across the board, then it’s something that could be looked at and I’m not against supporting. But, in principle, we ought to look at it when concerning electoral fraud. If we are going to make those changes that’s how it ought to be done.

There’s a rumour the House of Lords could be moving up north to York. What do you think of this?

Well it would be fantastic for York if that happened. I have a feeling that might not happen. But look, I’d certainly welcome it if the House of Lords came to York. It would be a great boost for the city, but I think that might be harder to achieve than is probably let on. We have to make sure that the work of parliament, the Lords and democracy as a whole is taken out of the city of London. The cabinet moving north is encouraging. Democracy to make sure people see the work of parliament in their community not just in London.

Decentralising the idea of Westminster?

Yes, it would be good going forward. I would support anything that would deliver on that.

Looking at the environment, part of looking after Yorkshire constituencies is making sure we are prepared for flooding. Are we in a better place with this now?

The meeting I had before this was with the Environment Agency going through the schemes that they are putting together as they have had a large injection of cash to deliver more capital schemes considering the flooding that we have had, sadly. I’ve been going through some of the schemes they have been delivering on at the moment and a lot of that is what’s called hard defences. Increasing flood barriers, looking at prevention at the home and property level as well they are doing; a lot of work on that which is very encouraging. But, the other thing we can have a bigger impact on is the wider catchment area. It’s about finding better ways of storing water in the upper catchment areas to ensure that the flow of water from the uplands can be restricted. So, there is a lot of work that can be done. There’s great scope in the environment bill that is coming through parliament at the moment. We are still going to need the hard defences and look at the way the flow of water has changed. We are obviously seeing that the peak level of the Ouse is increasing every ten years. Every cycle, we are getting higher and higher peaks.

That’s a concern. We need to get those defences in place, but at the same time we need to look at the wider issues. Money spent up in the dales or in the wider catchment may actually have an impact on York. We don’t always have to spend all the money in the city centre to make sure we stop flooding. We need to think wider than higher and higher walls to control the flooding.

Considering your agricultural background, what would you say to those who say that farming is a direct cause of climate change?

As far as I’m aware we still have to eat. Agriculture is the way we produce our food. But we can try to do it in a sustainable way that protects the environment, rather than actually damaging it. You could easily argue that if you stopped eating UK beef or stopped producing beef in the UK, then you are going to import a lot of it from Brazil. There is a lot less environmental impact by having grassed beef in the UK, rather than importing it from halfway around the world. You have to get the balance right.

I take it you didn’t take part in Veganuary then?

No, I didn’t – I like my meat too much! However, I do think that the best way is to eat locally sourced produce - [“Which York is great for”] - Exactly. The most environmentally friendly way to eat is to source everything locally.

Now we’re in February are you taking part in Februdairy or are you endorsing Februdairy?

I haven’t heard of that actually!

It’s the counter point to support the dairy industry.

Well... I will still be having milk in my latte!

The opposition is up for new leadership; who do you want to see leading it?

That’s not for me to say. I’m sure you asked Rachael and she was happy to answer. The Labour membership and the unions must decide who their future leader is. Whoever this may be, I’m sure the Prime Minister will meet their challenge.

Speaking of the Prime Minister, he chose to shut some news outlets out of the recent Brexit briefing; The Daily Mirror, The Independent. What did you think of this decision?

I’m sure there were reasons behind it. I think it’s up to the Prime Minister’s discretion really. If he feels that they weren’t delivering the news as it should be then he does have the right to do that.

I want to talk a bit about the bigger picture. A common accusation of political debate last year was that it became very angry and very bitter. The Jo Cox Foundation in response to this has asked for a new parliamentary code to be implemented. Do you have any hope that this could work?

I do. In the two years since the 2017 election, parliament wasn’t in a good place. I have been a Conservative MP since 2010, and certainly those two were the worst in terms of the environment of the commons. That was because there was a huge amount of frustration across the board, from the hard line Brexiteers on one side, the hard line Remainers on the other and then the people in the middle.
That frustration did boil over at times. We have to change things. You can already sense there is a change now. There’s a lot of new MPs from all sides which brings a breath of fresh air. I’m more encouraged now than I was. This code is certainly something that I would support.

We are a student newspaper, what would you say to anyone who wants to get into politics?

The best buzz you get as an MP is when someone comes to you for help and you can make a change in their lives. That’s what it’s all about. I would also say don’t put all your eggs in one basket. A lot of the good MPs out there previously had some life experience first. I think there is a move against career politicians a little bit. I’d encourage anyone to go for it, there’s lots of diverse opportunities out there.

Nouse extends their thanks to Julian Sturdy MP for taking the time to speak with student media.