Local MP Puts Pressure On PM Over Third Runway

Mary Macleod tells us she wants Davies report published before election

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Local MP Mary Macleod would like to see a decision made on airport expansion before the next election. The MP for Brentford and Isleworth believes that people will “fear the worst” if nothing has been announced by 2015 on the issue of a third runway for Heathrow.

The Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies will produce its Interim Report this year, and its final report in 2015, two months after the next General Election.

Mindful of the threat to her 2,000 majority in an area where airport expansion was "a priority with voters" in 2010, she believes it would be better if the Commission report was published before the next election, and has been putting pressure on the Prime Minister David Cameron on the issue.

"I would like to see the Commission report published before the next election. And if it's not, I will run for the next election on the issue of no third runway."

Mary made her remarks during a wide-ranging interview with this website in which she talked about her busy schedule since becoming an MP and her recent appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Maria Miller, the Minister for Culture, Media, Sports and Women.

While the Coalition government has opposed building a third runway, the issue is very much on the mind of the MP for Brentford and Isleworth. She wants all the MPs in West London to come together and has written to the Commission asking that they be allowed to give oral evidence. She is currently awaiting a response.

The Davies Commission's interim report will suggest short-term measures to assist capacity as well as outlining the more plausible options to be taken forward in the longer term. A paper is expected in the near future assessing future demand for aviation and other papers will follow on climate change and the economic benefits of aviation. However any final decision will be down to the government of the day.

Asked if she supported the idea of a Boris Island, an airport in the Thames Estuary, she said all options should be looked at. She recalled driving the Mayor Boris Johnson around Hounslow during the last election campaign and telling him that local people could not be expected to put up with more aircraft noise.

“I don't have all the answers but I think we should do something exciting, not just put a sticking plaster on the problem. We need to look at all the options. Let's do something that’s good for the country."

Mary spoke about her life based in Chiswick, which centres around her work for her 90,000 constituents, and her parliamentary commitments which see her arrive home often after midnight. When we met in the rectangular courtyard of Portcullis House with its distinctive glass roof, she had been up since 5am to visit a school in Bournemouth to talk about womens’ equality issues, and her diary consisted of back to back meetings until after 6 pm . However, she is not complaining and says, “I chose to work these hours."

She added that one of her main priorities in becoming a local MP was to be accessible to her constituents and to get to meet as many groups and individuals as possible.

Born in St. Thomas’ Hospital, across the river from her office in Westminster, the working hub for MPs and their staff, she lived in Battersea until she was aged three. Her father, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, moved the family to Dingwell in the Scottish Highlands, where she spent her childhood as the third eldest of four sisters.

“I did not grow up in a wealthy family. I went to the local comprehensive, I worked at two jobs from the age of sixteen, but we were encouraged to aspire in life and taught that if you work hard you will get rewards.”

Mary says she was partly inspired by the example of Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter who gained the highest political office in the land. After university Mary moved from Edinburgh to London and iimmersed herself in the world of business as a management consultant for Anderson Consulting, now Accenture. She was a relative latecomer to politics and her family were not particularly interested in the political world.

“Some friends of mine were going to watch a debate in Parliament and I went along with them as I thought it might be something interesting. That initially sparked off an interest.”

But it was when she became involved in a group working for reconciliation in Northern Ireland that she began to think that politics could make a change to peoples’ lives. She also felt she could translate her skills in the business world into the political arena.

“I decided to join the Conservative party because I felt I identified with many of its philosophies. I identified with the idea of of enterprise, of achieving things through work, that was what naturally steered me towards the Conservatives. I knew I was not a socialist at heart”.

Her sister joined the Labour Party. Mary is undaunted about dealing with people who take a different political stance

”You have to remember that when I was elected for the first time, we became part of a coalition in government. As a new MP I had never known anything different in that sense. When we sit down to work out problems, it’s about finding common ground “.

Her first general election was in 1997 was “a learning experience” when she was pitted against the then leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy. After failing to be elected, it was back to Accenture, and then an interesting move to work as Policy Adviser to the Queen and Royal Household at Buckingham Palace in the area of PR, communications and strategic change. She then moved to ABM Amro as Chief of Staff for Group Operations, and Group Communications Head of Transition at RBS.

But she had not behind the idea of a career in politics and she was on the lookout for a potential seat. With the news of the selection process for Brentford/Isleworth constituency for the 2010 election she jumped at the chance to put her name forward.

“ I felt I knew the area well from my time in Chiswick, and I felt I could turn it around and so I was interviewed, selected and then had a long three-year campaign to work through.”

In May 2010, she won the seat with a 37.2% share, a total 20,022 votes. The outgoing MP Ann Keen received 18,064 or 33.6% of the vote.

Mary spends Monday to Thursday in Westminster, representing her constituents in Parliament and as PPS for Maria Miller. Her parliamentary activities range from asking questions of Ministers, speaking in the Chamber during debates, supporting local businesses at Parliamentary events and meeting Ministers to discuss local campaigns such as night flights at Heathrow.

In her role as PPS she is the link between the Culture Minister for the backbench TDs and attends policy meetings. With the Leveson and Saville enquiries to the forefront of the public mind, she is at the heart of high-profile news events but local issues are just as important to her.

Apart from the Heathrow airport issue, her main area of interests are womens' issues, immigration, education, law and order, and developing countries. She has worked on behalf of Actionaid and is interested in Africa, is on the Advisory Board of Learning for Life, involved in setting up the All Party Parliamentary Group to campaign for more Women in Parliament and is a former PPS to Nick Herbert, Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice. But after a long day in Westminster, she looks forward to coming home to Chiswick to relax.

"I first visited Chiswick in around 1991 and at that time I was living in Shepherds Bush in a flat. I instantly loved the village feel of the place and felt an immediate affinity with Chiswick. And I moved soon aftewards.

"There are some amazing individuals around Chiswick who do fantastic work on a daily basis, such as volunteers like Pauline Hart, who works with the elderly, carers, community workers, those working with victims of domestic violence. And I love the fact that the community gets so involved with events such as the Bedford Park Festival."

She commutes by public transport, leaving home at 7am to get into the office by 8 am. She regularly updates her Twitter account with details of delays on the District Line and has tackled Mayor Boris Johnson on the need to have the Piccadilly Line stop at Turnham Green.

When not working she enjoys jogging by the river, and meeting friends for a meal in local restaurants. She says she is as happy in a coffee shop on Turnham Green as in a smart restaurant but admits that two favourite venues are Michael Nadra's restaurant and High Road House.

" I also love walking in Chiswick House Gardens, we are so lucky to have so much greenery here".

As she covers a diverse constituency, her day could see her visiting a mosque and talking to local community leaders, meeting constituents in a supermarket, or hosting a surgery listening to people's problems with mental health or housing issues. It is a very busy but varied life which she admits she enjoys enormously.

And her views on the Prime Minister;"I visit Number Ten quite a lot for various events and I find him very friendly, and very accessible, and he is always very good to listen to opinions."

As for future political ambitions, she merely says that she will continue to work hard on behalf of her constituents and "take whatever opportunities come my way in life".

Anne Flaherty

December 5, 2012

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