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'I make no secret I wasn't born here' - Interview with Brandon Lewis MP

PUBLISHED: 16:25 02 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:28 09 August 2019

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, at the reception at Westminster to lobby for the dualling of the A47. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, at the reception at Westminster to lobby for the dualling of the A47. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A perception among some in Great Yarmouth is that Brandon Lewis, the town's MP, does not spend enough time there.

An overhead view of what the third river crossing in Great Yarmouth could look like Picture: Norfolk County CouncilAn overhead view of what the third river crossing in Great Yarmouth could look like Picture: Norfolk County Council

He disagrees.

Mr Lewis, who was previously party chairman for the Conservatives but since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister - and reshuffled his cabinet - has been moved to the home office, said: "The Labour Party likes to make the point I wasn't born here, which I make no secret about. But also sometimes people misunderstand the constituency."

"But also sometimes people misunderstand the constituency."

He remembers an encounter with a member of the public who criticised him and the borough council's Labour Party leader for not living in Great Yarmouth.

McDonalds YarmouthMcDonalds Yarmouth

"We were both perplexed by that, and realised they meant the town, but of course the constituency goes from Repps with Bastwick in the north all the way to Hopton in the south."

Mr Lewis sees a future in the offshore energy sector, tourism and the development of transport infrastructure including the third river crossing and improvements to the A47.

Where does somebody from the town centre fit into that vision?

"Everybody's always looking for a silver bullet for this, but silver bullets don't exist outside of the odd hammer movie," he says.

Great Yarmouth Norfolk Conservative MP Brandon Lewis Photo: UK ParliamentGreat Yarmouth Norfolk Conservative MP Brandon Lewis Photo: UK Parliament

"It's about getting the infrastructure right, getting the education structure correct, then you have the job opportunities, which are coming.

"Education is absolutely key, having the knowledge and skill set to benefit from the job opportunities," he says.

What of some young people who feel their only opportunity for work is a job in McDonalds?

"I don't have a problem with that," Mr Lewis says.

"When I first went into work, my first job was working in a pub,

"My first full time job was working a in a warehouse.

"I know people who started work in McDonalds and then became McDonalds franchisees, immensely successful people.

"McDonalds is actually a brilliant company to work for.

"Working in supermarket, working in McDonalds, anything, if you've got an opportunity to work, you should take that opportunity as step one on a ladder, that's fair to society."

Mr Lewis was first elected as Great Yarmouth MP in 2010.

"I felt quite an attachment to Great Yarmouth, because although I wasn't born here, my accent gives it away, my dad had a business here, so when I was a teenager we were here quite a bit."

His father's company owned and ran the Docwra factory.

In January last year, the MP was made chairman of the Conservative Party - he oversaw two sets of local elections, a European election and the selection of the new party leader.

"It's been quite an interesting and busy period of time," he says.

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"I've been on the road for five weeks, flat out, from Perth in Scotland to Bournemouth, to London."

After the election of Boris Johnson and the cabinet reshuffle, Mr Lewis has been made minister of state for security.

His brief includes counter-terrorism, organised crime strategy and cyber security.

"Being chairman means you have less time in your constituency," Mr Lewis says.

"This role, I will certainly have more weekends based in the constituency and remind my wife and kids what I look like.

"It's good because I can spend more time in the constituency potentially at weekends."

Combining ministerial and constituency work is a "diary pressure", he says.

"If you're a member of cabinet, it raises the profile of your constituency," he adds.

"It also means, being in Westminster you've got a chance when you want to talk to colleagues, whether minister or cabinet colleagues, about issues that are affecting the constituency, you can raise that directly with them, because you're seeing them very regularly, so that's a benefit."

As with many people, both constituents and politicians, Brexit is another issue at the forefront of Mr Lewis' concerns.

During the referendum campaign he advocated remain and the town ultimately had the fifth highest leave vote in the country.

"If we had another referendum I'd vote leave," Mr Lewis says.

He adds: "We have to deliver on that referendum.

"The prime minister is very clear he wants to leave with a deal, but we must leave.

"We need to make sure if we leave on the 31st of October we are ready for it.

"It's important for the credibility of politicians generally, not just for this government, but for all politicians, if you're going to ask people for their opinion on something, you've got to deliver on it, otherwise what's democracy about?"

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