Born and raised in 1970’s Buckingham my mother was a teacher and my father worked for the local district council. Ours was a socialist household and both my parents and grandparents were involved in the trade union movement. Buckinghamshire had a grammar school system and, having failed my entrance exam, I attended Buckingham County Secondary Modern school where there was little emphasis or encouragement for academic qualifications. Ignoring the advice of my teachers not to waste my time studying for A levels, I left my school to attend Aylesbury College of Further Education. It was here that I gained a taste for learning and I achieved good enough A levels to take me to Durham University where I read law. I consider it my great fortune to have experienced both sides of the educational coin growing up.
After graduating, I qualified as a barrister and worked in a criminal practice for a short time in London. Having decided that the Bar was not for me, I moved to an in-house legal position and spent 17 years working as a banking and finance lawyer. My final position, as a Managing Director and Lawyer, was leading a team that unwound the Lehman Brothers’ estate in Europe. This position was a huge challenge in crisis management. Our small team repaid every creditor in full, with an expectation of a large surplus to be paid back on top.
I am a firm believer that politicians should experience a career outside of politics. My twenty years in the private sector has given me a strong sense of perspective that has proved invaluable in my political work in Westminster.
During my time at the Bar I represented many young people whose lives had gone wrong for a variety of reasons and who were now facing the prospect of imprisonment. It was here that I learned how important early intervention was in improving young people’s prospects and I wanted to work with young people to help them see a better future before it was too late. Accordingly, I spent 5 years as a trustee and volunteer in a youth charity set up following the Brixton riots. Our youth centres provided after-school learning, music and acting classes, sport and work in the environment to try and encourage our young people to see past the lure of gang-culture and empower themselves with an education and a career. I then spent a further five years as a governor of a former failing secondary school in Shepherd’s Bush, London, as part of a new team tasked with transforming the school. Our results went from way below the national average to well-above, and our head was knighted for his visionary work.
I moved to East Sussex in 2006 and was almost immediately elected as the Wealden District Councillor for Rotherfield, serving as the head of Wealden’s Scrutiny Committee focussing on finance. My role as a Councillor gave me an excellent grounding in representing people as well as understanding the needs of my community. I have rolled up my sleeves to make a difference: from strimming the verges, clearing the snow, marshalling for bonfire societies to campaigning to save our pubs, post offices and essential services from closure.
In 2012 (following a post as the Chairman of Wealden Conservative Association) I successfully gained the nomination to become the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Bexhill and Battle, and went on to secure my seat in the following General Election.
Upon being elected I have been given a wide variety of responsibilities. I have served on the Bill Committee that made the 2015 budget law, and have actively involved myself in treasury matters that affect my constituents since. I am also a member of the Transport Select Committee - scrutinising government performance on national transport. Notably I was part of the team that called Volkswagen to account for its behaviour in the most recent fumes-data scandal.
I take a keen interest in local rail and road services, championing development of local infrastructure to improve business opportunities for those in Battle, Bexhill and the surrounding areas.
I have recently been appointed to the Council of Europe where I will work with other parliamentarians from across Europe to champion reform. Away from policy, in a cross-party role, I am the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Bees which campaigns to raise awareness of the risks to pollinators and promote their wellbeing. I am also Chairman of the APPG for the BBC, a Committee Member of the APPG on Autism and a member of the Commons Procedure Committee which considers the practice and procedure of the House in the conduct of public business.
I commute to Westminster from my home in East Sussex (in the same way I have commuted to London as a lawyer). I love living in Five Ashes and spend all my time in the constituency when Parliament is not sitting. As your MP, I want to get involved in the campaigns and issues which matter to you. I hope that people will come to know me by name and will know that I am doing my best for them regardless of their political persuasion. There are many things which politicians cannot fix, and should not even try to do so, but I will always aim to be straight with the electors and will offer both my assistance and opinion when needed.