New Peterborough MP Paul Bristow on Brexit, Boris and baby joy
Few people will have enjoyed a better 48 hours than Paul Bristow last week.
Peterborough’s new MP triumphed after two gruelling election campaigns within six months of each other, while at the same time he saw the Tories secure a huge majority in the House of Commons.
And that was followed by welcoming his second daughter Eris into the world with partner Sara to join four-year-old Becky in the household.
So, which life-changing event was the most significant? “The most important thing is my daughter, but representing the people of Peterborough I’m well aware is a great honour,” replies an upbeat Mr Bristow.
Having lost a by-election in June before triumphing last week the 40-year-old, who lives in West Town, is well versed in delivering key messages, and during the course of his interview with the Peterborough Telegraph he regularly enthuses about how much he “loves” the city, how he will “make the case” with ministers and why it is time to ignore the “naysayers and doom-mongers” over Brexit.
So there is no question what he will do today (Friday) in Parliament when the Brexit bill comes before MPs, paving the way for the UK to depart the European Union.
“People have been frustrated by the previous MPs from Peterborough not recognising what their constituents want. On Friday I will be the first MP for two years going with what the people of Peterborough voted for,” he says.
Peterborough voted heavily to Leave in the 2016 referendum, and Mr Bristow believes that paid a large part in his victory. “It was obviously a factor in the result.
“People want Brexit done and are fed up of the naysayers and doom-mongers saying we can’t make a success of leaving the EU. I think we can.
“But it was also my local plan - wanting more police officers, accepting we need to have improvement in schools and cleaning up the city.”
The city’s fourth MP in three years regularly promoted his ‘plan’ during both campaigns, and after overturning a 683 Labour majority into a 2,580 Tory win he made a big statement on election night by promising to visit every school in his constituency to find out why the city is always struggling in the national Key Stage 2 SATs league tables.
Expanding on that theme, he said: “We need to look very carefully at what we need to do to drive forward improvement. Money is an issue, but we’re going to get £4,000 for every primary school pupil and £5,000 for every secondary school pupil.
“For some schools it is about demography, for some about money and for some about the areas they are in. In certain parts of Peterborough it’s about leadership.
“Fulbridge Academy, for example, gets excellent results and it’s about discovering why they do it and others don’t.”
Money is a recurring theme in the interview, with Boris Johnson having offered more funding for public services ahead of the election after years of austerity which has seen authorities in Peterborough claim they are struggling financially.
When it comes to the city council, which has lost many millions of pounds of funding, he said: “I want Peterborough to get as much resource from central government as possible. I will be making the case for Peterborough for more police officers and local authority finance where it’s merited.”
With police, he insists he will push for Peterborough to get its “fair share” of new officers, while for local health services he said: “There’s going to be an extra £33.9 billion going to the NHS across the country. My job as MP is to help the local NHS and CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to make the case for as much of that as possible.
“We already have more cancer diagnosis equipment at Peterborough City Hospital and I want more services provided at PCH, such as more cardiovascular services to prevent my constituents having to travel to Cambridge.
“We also need more GPs in the city. This could be a good time for NHS with more money in the service.”
Mr Bristow promises he will be a “critical friend” of the council - “I will tell them when I think they have done wrong and applaud when they have got it right.”
And perhaps his strongest statement during the interview is on the fly-tipping blight in Peterborough which he wants to see tougher action on.
“The local authority have to do their bit, but so does everyone else,” he said.
“If you find someone dumping litter you need to call that out and the local authority need a zero tolerance approach. We need CCTV cameras in fly-tipping hotspots and to hand out stricter fines. I will be lobbying for that.
“We also need to make it easier to recycle waste. I’m hoping the local authority will make it easier to recycle commercial waste, but at the same time we need a stick and more CCTV and stricter fines are part of it.
“It requires leadership from the top.”
Asked if the Conservative-run council has not been tough enough on fly-tipping, he replies: “I’m not interested in what happened in the past, I’m interested in moving forward. We need to crack down on people using this city as a dumping ground.”
Mr Bristow entered Parliament for the first time on Tuesday and he insists he is already dealing with the concerns of his constituents who can email him at [email protected]
“I’m already answering constituency enquiries. I’m going to set up an office and will be visible. You will be able to get in touch with me as MP,” he said.
“I will have an office in the constituency in the next week or two. Peterborough is where I grew up and is my city. This is the most important thing I have ever done. I don’t know how long I will have the job and I will do my best over at least the next five years to make Peterborough a great place.”
Having missed a reception with the Prime Minister on Monday to greet his new daughter, Mr Bristow had his moment with Boris Johnson - who he backed to be Tory leader - on Tuesday.
“As he came out of the chamber he came up and shook my hand and said ‘I’m absolutely thrilled you won Peterborough’.
“Peterborough is where he launched his campaign to be leader of the party so he knows of its importance.”
Mr Johnson began his leadership pitch during June’s by-election which was held after Labour’s Fiona Onasanya became the first MP to be sacked by a Recall Petition. The petition had been triggered when she was jailed for lying over speeding points.
Having come third at the by-election when Theresa May was Prime Minister it was a completely different story this time around, meaning that after a gruelling year of campaigning Mr Bristow was able to realise a long-held ambition having previously contested a seat in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
Reflecting on the moment he finally became an MP after two earlier defeats, he admitted it was “daunting,” adding: “I had worked so hard to achieve this and it had happened.
“It’s a huge responsibility being MP for Peterborough, a city I love. That’s the daunting thing, that’s what I’m focusing on. The people of Peterborough deserve better than what it’s had in the last few years.”
Mr Bristow, who has already attended a meeting of the European Research Group with fellow Conservative Eurosceptics, will soon be able to enjoy Christmas with a new baby and new job, and he is confident of managing the balancing act of being a dad and holding an demanding job.
“I’m determined to be the best possible dad and be the best possible MP I can be. Being an MP and father is tough, but working any full-time job and being a parent is tough.”
It’s been an “exhausting” year for Mr Bristow, and after a hectic few days the reality of his achievement has finally dawned on him.
“It really became real when I sat in the chamber for the first time. I’m conscious it’s a big job and big responsibility.
“We need a better MP for Peterborough and I will do my best to live up to it.”
Reflections on the campaign
The recent campaign saw Mr Bristow often criticised by Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene. The new MP said: “I tried to fight a very positive election but sadly others chose to go negative.”
Mr Bristow’s team was also warned by Peterborough City Council after advising residents to return postal vote application forms to the Peterborough Conservative Association instead of the Electoral Registration Office. Mr Bristow said: “December is cold and dark. It was important to get as high a turnout as possible so we encouraged people to apply for postal voting. There’s nothing wrong with that.”