Chris Matheson won the City of Chester seat in Parliament in the May general election by 93 votes. On my recent visit to London he took time out of his schedule to answer questions submitted by followers. Other political parties are available.
How was the election night ?
It was a bad night all round for Labour nationally, and for me personally it was very fraught as you would expect, with such a tight race. I was grateful for the result at the end and I haven’t stopped being grateful yet.
Did Stephen Mosely do a good job?
Stephen was a nice bloke, and I think in some areas he did a very good job. I think his contribution on science policy was really underrated and undervalued. It was an area that he knew about and I think he made an important contribution.
How do you divide your time between Chester and London ?
When the House of Commons is sitting I’ll usually go down on a Sunday night , maybe Monday morning, and I’ll come home Thursday night. Its three days in the constituency . When the House isn’t sitting I’m at home all week
How have you found parliamentary life ?
It’s hugely enjoyable, and without wanting to sound trite or sanctimonious you do have a real sense not only of the privilege of being an MP but also the history of the place. Some of the traditions and rules are crazy, and funny as well. You also recognise that most MPs want to do a decent job for their constituents and their country. They might disagree totally with my point of view, but most people are trying to do a decent job and work hard.
Parliament absolutely still matters, this is the place where we hold the Government to account , where we stop the government from becoming a dictatorship, and the place where people’s views can be heard. The day we lose it, is the day we cease to be the democracy that we are
What does Chester do well, and what could it improve on ?
I love the fact that when I walk into Chester I’ll always bump into people I know and I’ll always see some of the characters around the city. What Chester does well is its people. We’re a small city with a great sense of community. Yes, we have a great historical offering which I hope will improve. I think that nationally, the north of England needs more support for tourism, and to get people out of London.
We could always do better. Maybe link the zoo up better with the city. It’s a great tourist attraction , but you feel that its slightly distant. Perhaps we could have some better hotels. The theatre is coming along extremely well, and that’s due to the work of people like Sam Dixon and Stuart Parker who worked so hard together to drive that project forward on a cross party basis. But we should always be looking for improvements.
What colour are the baubles on your Christmas tree?
My tinsel is white, my angel is dressed in white.. as for the baubles, my daughter smashed them all when she was young!
What are your top 3 priorities for Chester ?
We’ve gotta sort the transport infrastructure out. Every time the m56 goes down the whole city jams up. I’m working with the highways agency to improve that. It would also include better rail services, I’ve been speaking to network rail about possible electrification.
Jobs and prosperity is always the base of what we do as well. We have some great top-level employers, but we need some stronger mid level employers, that will pay decent wages for good skilled employees. We’re lucky that we have manufacturing and financial services as a good strong base
Finally, the Conservative Government has just dropped £50 million off the local council budget, give a take a pound or two, and that will cause havoc to local services. My priority is to make them give the £50 million back.
Will you attend the Manchester court hearing on Friday re: Upton anti fracking camp ?
Yes. To support the people who have led the anti fracking campaign in that camp, and to demonstrate my opposition to fracking , not just in Chester but everywhere.
What is your view on the legalisation of drugs, specifically marijuana for medical use?
By and large I’m not in favour of legalizing drugs. But a couple of constituents have raised with me, the importance or the possibility of medicinal use of cannabis. My view is simple: if a doctor believes its right for their patients who I am to disagree?
There are hardly any living wage employers in Chester could you campaign/publicise for more?
The Conservative Government recently rebadged the national minimum wage as the living wage. It’s not a living wage. There is still an issue to be addressed about prosperity in Chester , so congratulations to all those people paying the living wage.. to the rest of them I say “come on, our people are worth it”
What would you like to be remembered for at the end of your term?
Well I hope the end of term wont be for a while yet. I’d like to think I will have helped businesses to grow, improve the standard of living and economic prospects, and I will have helped to make Chester an even better place to live and work
What can be done about the rents/rates crisis that is making the city a “ghost town”?
At the general election we’d identified the fact that action had to be taken on private sector rents. There’s another problem frankly, there are too many developers wanting to build student accommodation which is not addressing the real crisis which is in entry-level family accommodation. We have the wrong type of properties being developed for rent or purchase. Personally I’d like to see housing needs being met, rather than the housing needs of property developers.
I live in Chester, and I work in Westminster. Parliament should be open to all, so if you’re down in London and you’re actually from the Chester constituency, pop in and say hello because this is your building as much as it is mine .
Thank you Chris Matheson MP
Next time: Eating the facts with Cllr Mike Jones