Thursday, 10 July 2008

Interview with Jeremy Hunt MP

Jeremy Hunt is MP for South West Surrey, and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Read his parliamentary biography here. Visit his website. Read his blog.

(1) How has your shadow cabinet role been going recently?

I am lucky enough to have been given a very wide-ranging and interesting brief, with many areas that really strike a chord with the public. It's a busy time - there's on-going work to ensure the 2012 Olympics deliver a genuine sporting legacy; restoring the National Lottery to its original four pllars so more funding goes to arts, sports, heritage and charities; and looking at the future of broadcasting.

(2) When was the last time you visited the borough ward of Wrecclesham and Rowledge, and why were you there?

I was in Rowledge last Friday to inspect the red phone box there. Around half of the BT payphones in Waverley, including 33 traditional red boxes, are under threat of being removed so I am fighting to save them. I have set up a petition on my website, which I would urge people to sign if they want to save their local red phone box and I will be meeting with BT next week.
The same day, I visited Farnham Pottery in Wrecclesham, where I had a delicious blueberry cake at Smith & Causey’s tea room!

(3) I've been viewing your new YouTube channel videos. Have you had much feedback about them?

I have been really pleased with the response I got to my venture onto YouTube. I think it's a fun way to get a sometimes serious point across and it reaches lots of people that I might not normally communicate with – my video about this year's budget has been watched 1141 times so far! I was especially pleased to get emails from some of my younger constituents saying that they liked what I was doing.

(4) Blogs that comment on the national political scene are now common - how important do you believe blogs will become for more local issues and communities?

I am a strong believer in localism so I think local blogs can play a really important role in local communities by providing a forum for discussion, a portal to local information and a way of holding elected persons to account. I think your blog is leading the way in Waverley and I hope other areas and other councillors will follow suit.

(5) How do you balance your own opinion on issues, in cases where the majority view of your constituents is the opposite?

I think you must vote with your conscience, even if you believe that a majority of your constituents have a different view. Although that circumstance does not often arise, I think that when people vote for me they are putting their trust in me to make judgements on their behalf on the basis of the facts and the issues as I understand them. Ultimately, the way our democracy works - rightly in my opinion – is that if people disagree with me over too many issues they have the power to take those decisions out of my hands when a General Election comes.

(6) You've demonstrated an unusual level of openness in your letters to the Herald, and other means such as YouTube. Do you have a particular approach to communications that you can outline?

I am keen to embrace new modes of communication, so that I can reach and engage as wide a group of people as possible. I especially like the interactivity that new media offers: I believe that the way to restore trust in politics and politicians is by moving from one-way communication to two-way interactive communication. I want my constituents to know what I am doing and thinking (and to be able to respond) so launched my blog and YouTube page to make that a bit more entertaining and accessible to them.

(7) The Waverley website is hosting a poll to discover residents' favourite places in the borough - for where would you vote?

My favourite place is sitting in my living room in Red Lion Lane looking out over the meadows and the tower of St. Andrew's Church - when the sun is shining!

(8) Do you have a creed that you live by, and can you summarise it in 3 sentences?

Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, said that happiness is not something that can be pursued, but it ensues when you devote yourself to a cause that is greater than yourself. I think that's not a bad philosophy, even if it's sometimes hard to live up to.

(9) Why did you want to be an MP?

I grew up in a happy family in a lovely Surrey village - a great start in life that many people do not have. So I always felt the need for a part of my life to be devoted to public service in one way or another. Being an MP gives me the opportunity to do that and I consider it to be a great privilege.

(10) What's your favourite coffee?

I have a decaf filter coffee for breakfast and then a regular supply of cappuccinos throughout the day. By lunchtime I am on caffeine overload!

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