The former Conservative and Change UK MP was the latest guest in the online Power Hour series.
The latest in the John Smith Centre’s Power Hour series saw former MP Anna Soubry deliver an interview that focused on her route into politics. She also addressed the state of the Conservative party and her opinion on the motivations behind the victory of the leave vote in the 2016 European Union membership referendum.
Speaking about her early life, Soubry said that she “found herself” at the local comprehensive, stressing the fact that it was a former grammar school, but it did have an impact on her politics as it “opened [her] eyes to the way other people lived”. Although she didn’t set out to be a politician, saying that as a child she wanted to be Fred Astaire. Her advance into politics came at university where she “came out of the closet and joined the Tories”.
The discussion moved beyond her first two careers, first as a journalist and then a barrister, to her time as an MP representing the Conservative party. Soubry held ministerial roles, most notable in the Ministry of Defence, but what brought her to prominence was undoubtedly the Brexit referendum. Discussing the vote, she said that she agreed with Cameron’s decision to call the referendum as it was a chance to “get rid of the rump in Tory party in hope they would go off to UKIP where they belong”. Characterising those who voted leave she said: “I’m not allowed to say this but it was the white working-class wards…in a protest vote that had nothing to do with the EU” pointing to the repeated calls of “get them out” referring to immigration she heard on the campaign trail.
On the current state of British politics, she spoke about the Conservative party “now being the Brexit party” with people like Priti Patel “speaking drivel … and offensive nonsense” and Boris Johnson being worse than she had imagined.
She went on to say the whole system was in need of entire reform so that each vote mattered. Soubry also spoke in admiration of Keir Starmer and his “lawyer-like forensic approach”, however, warned that a root and branch style reform of the Labour party is needed for Starmer to be successful.
The interview, however, did not acknowledge Soubry’s most recent and least successful foray into politics as the leader of the Independent Group for Change UK, who campaigned unsuccessfully for a second Brexit referendum returning no seats in both the 2019 European Parliament and UK General Elections with just over 571,846 and 10,000 votes respectively across the country. Despite this, she finished by calling for people to “stand up for what they believe in” and “sensible people need to take back control”.This event was the last one planned in the John Smith Centre’s Power Hour series as it takes a brief hiatus whilst more events are planned.