Iain McKenzie MP
Our local MP, Iain McKenzie, allowed me to interview him so that we, his constituents, could get to know him better. Here is a transcript of that interview which I hope you will enjoy reading.
Q. How many years did you serve as a local Councillor before becoming an MP at Westminster?
A. I became a local Councillor in 2003, so I served on the Council for nearly ten years before being elected as a Member of Parliament.
Q What was the transition like from being a local Councillor to being an MP?
A. It was certainly a step-up in politics. I went from being a part–time Councillor who held down a job locally to being a full –time MP based in London four days a week.
Q. What’s it like at Westminster?
A. In a word, busy. I serve on a number of committees and am often at Westminster from 9am until I leave at 11pm. It is a long day. Westminster is not a family friendly place. MP’s with young families would struggle to spend time with their children.
However, I can’t believe I work here. I look around at the magnificent buildings and marvel that this really is my place of work.
Q. Who was your mentor when you were a “new boy” at Westminster?
A. (There was a wide smile at this point.)
It was a case of “in at the deep end”. Initially I was welcomed by Ed Milliband, the Shadow Prime Minister, and I was given about ten minutes to practise the “Oath of Allegiance” which means swearing one’s loyalty to Queen and Country.
After that, I was handed a key to my room and was left to get on with it.
I spent a lot of time during my first weeks asking where this room or that was located. I could have done with a map of the building to find my way around.
Q. How did your wife adapt to the changes in your joint lifestyles?
A. She was very happy to get control of the Remote. Now she can watch “Strictly” or the X Factor whenever she chooses.
When I am at Westminster, we usually speak on the phone each evening to keep in touch.
Q. How did your wife feel about your new job? Proud? Happy?
A. My wife was very supportive when I was campaigning to become an MP and she continued to be supportive once I went to Westminster.
Q. How is your time divided between London and Inverclyde?
A. I usually spend four days a week in London. Fridays are normally spent in Inverclyde in my constituency and my week-ends are spent in Inverclyde with my family.
Q. How has it affected family life?
A. I spend about four days a week in London so that’s four days we are apart every week. We keep in touch by phone and I try to phone my mother each evening too. My mother is always checking up on me to see that I am eating properly and looking after myself.
I have two grown up sons and I try to do something with them at week-ends whether it is going to the football or just catching up on what’s been happening since last week.
Q. Have you any regrets about “going for it” when Inverclyde needed a new MP?
A. No, I have no regrets about becoming Inverclyde’s MP. I really wanted it and it can be lovely at times. As I look around Westminster with its history and splendour I feel very lucky indeed to be there.
Q. Are you “growing into the job”?
A. Yes, I feel I’m settling in to the job. There are so many things to learn like the processes used and the “language of the House”. As I grow used to these things I feel my confidence is growing.
I made my “Maiden Speech” soon after becoming an MP. Traditionally, the subject of one’s “Maiden Speech” is one’s own constituency and I spoke about Inverclyde and about the needs we have in this area.
Q. When can we expect to see you on “Question Time” representing the Labour Party?
A. I think they are looking for “bigger guns” than me for Question timebut I was at the Watt College recently when there was a radio broadcast and that was interesting.
Q. Any job you covet in a Labour led Parliament
A. I would be ambitious enough to want to serve in a LabourGovernment and would be prepared to accept any post I was offered but I would be particularly interested in a post concerned with Employment or Europe.
Q. Was David Cairns a hard act to follow?
A. I think that David Cairns was a gifted politician.He was a close friend of mine and I respected him greatly. I am so pleased that his former High School, Notre Dame, has set up a David Cairns Foundation in his memory.
Q. Did you ever dream of being an MP when you first sought election as a Councillor?
A. From P.7 I was interested in debating and politics. I joined the Labour Party in 1984 and later became a local councillor. While David Cairns was MP for Inverclyde I had no aspirations to stand in this constituency because I thought he was doing such a good job and I respected him too much to ever think of standing against him. If I ever thought about becoming an MP, in the future, it would have been in another area and not here in Inverclyde.
Q. Are there any changes you’d like to see in the Labour Party if they are to be re-elected to Government?
A. I think it is important not to be complacent and to get your priorities right. The state of the Economy must be improved to create jobs.
The Labour Party has to continue to be accessible to people. We have to have a vision of how we would like things to be and to convince the voters that our vision is achievable.
Q. Any hopes of a seat on the front benches in a future Labour Government?
A. Yes. I would be ambitious enough to hope for a seat on the front benches at some time in the future but for the moment I am happy to serve my Inverclyde constituents.
Q. Do you feel drawn to London and away from your roots in Inverclyde?
A. On the contrary, I am passionate about Inverclyde. I work in London but I am always happy to return to Inverclyde where the air is fresh and the water is palatable.
Ian with coastguards at the House of Commons.
Q. What has being an MP enabled you to do materially or financially? (Bigger salary)
A. Well, I still live in the same house I have been in for yearsand I run a five year old car. I am an IBM Pensioner. For the moment I have continuity of employment.
Q. Drop a few names for me of people you’ve met, spoken to or befriended in Westminster.
A. I’ve met Bill Gates (Microsoft). During the Badgers’ Cull debate I met Brian May of Queen. I have also met Richard Branson and have frequently seen David Cameron and, of course, Ed Milliband.
Q. Is there anyone in the Opposition / Coalition whom you admire personally as opposed to politically?
A. There is a Conservative MP who was previously a barrister and I love to l listen to him when he speaks in the House. His diction is so clear and his manner of delivery and use of his hands when he is making a point make me wish I could stand up and speak as confidently as he does. I admire his oratory if not his politics.
Q. Anyone who rubs you up the wrong way?
A. People who are out of touch with everyday life really annoy me. This is shown by some of the comments they make. There was once a campaign to give aid to starving people in Africa and one MP suggested having centres where meal vouchers could be given out. How were the starving people in Africa to get to these centres without transport and over vast distances?
Q. Do you feel like a Celeb?
A. Even as a local Councillor, I always liked to be seen out and about and to be approachable. When I am in Inverclyde I still walk around the town centre or sit on one of the benches and encourage people to talk to me whether it is just to chat or to bring up things they’d like me do for them.
Q. In these days of phone hacking/intrusive photos have you been exposed to anything that you feel is intrusive?
A. No,maybe that’s because I have nothing to hide.
Q. Do you feel thatyour privacy been infringed?
A. No. It’s part of the job. People in Public Office have to expect to be recognised and /or approached by members of the public.
Q. Did you get the chance to attend the Olympic/ Paralympics / Wimbledon while in London?
A. I was able to see two football matches featuring Team GB in Manchester but I watched quite a lot of the Olympics and Paralympics on TV.
Q. What are your hobbies or interests?
A. I have been a runner for many years and I take an early morning run each day before I go to Westminster. Running helps me to unwind.
Q. Where do you go on holiday?
A. Last August my wife and I went to one of the quieter resorts on Gran Canaria. I love to walk about in the sunshine or sit reading a book outdoors in warm weather.
I also like to holiday in various parts of Scotland e.g. Berwick on Tweed.
Q. Are you a sun worshipper?
A. My skin is too fair for me to sunbathe. I would burn. I love sunshine but I don’t lie on the beach sunbathing.
Q. Anything you miss when away from Inverclyde?
A. The water is better here. It is clean and not scummy and the air quality is fresher too. I miss our West of Scotland scenery when I am in London.
Q. Tell me a little about your wife and family. Do you have any grandchildren?
A. My wife Alison and I have been married for thirty years and we have two grown –up sons, Andrew and David who still live with us. We have no grandchildren as yet.
Q. What are you like about the house? Are you a Couch Potato or a Mr. Fix-it?
A. I am a fidget about the house. I can’t sit still. I tidy up andHoover and I can do a bit of home decorating and DIY.
Q. So you help with the washing up or Hoovering?
A. Yes, I help with the washing up and Hoovering etc.
Tell me a bit about your staff at your Greenockoffice and your interaction with them.
A. There are three members of staff in office.
Taylor Scott is my PA and he helps me with Press Releases and a multitude of other tasks.
Natasha does Case Work and research for me and Margaret is the Senior Case Worker who helps me to deal with problems that crop up and pursues them to conclusion. She also deals with the financial aspects of the office.
In Westminster, Kirsty works for me and helps me to put the questions together that I want to ask in Parliament.
Q. Are there any causes you champion or would like to champion?
A. I am very interested in bringing employment to the people of Inverclyde. I want to keep the young people in Inverclyde and to do that they need to have jobs.
Q. Do people still behave the same towards you or are there some who feel you are “a bit above yourself”?
A. I’m still the same person I always was when I lived in Fancy Farm.
Q. Do you feel Westminster has changed you and in what way?
A. I believe the Tories have no compassion. They are convinced they have the right to rule.
Q. Have you developed your talents and found some new ones?
A. I have developed my Speaking Skills and I now have the confidence to speak in the House of Commons.
Q. Are you confident of being re-elected at the next General Election?
A. I wouldn’t take the public for granted. I would be hopeful that I would be re-elected but I would not be complacent.
Q. Do you think Labour will win?
A. I hope so!
Q. What legacy would you say has been left behind by Tony Blair/ Gordon Brown?
A. I think the achievements in the NHS; the Minimum Wage; the swift and early action over the RBS; that they did not go lurching to extremes.
Q. Is Ed Milliband a good prospect as a future PM?
A. I think Ed Milliband has the qualities necessary to make a good Prime Minister. I find him to be very approachable.
Iain McKenzie came over to me as a modest, hardworking MP for Inverclyde who would want to achieve more politically in the future but who is prepared to learn the ropes and bide his time. He seemed to see David Cairns as his role model and to look on the latter’s work in Inverclyde as a worthy legacy to leave behind.