New Conservative MP settling in at Westminster after shock win

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the new MPs
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the new MPs

The borough’s new Conservative MP is settling into life in Westminster following his stunning against-the-odds victory in the general election.

Lowton East councillor James Grundy admits it still feels “surreal” to be walking the corridors of power in London as Leigh’s MP.

James Grundy MP celebrates with family and friends

James Grundy MP celebrates with family and friends

His election, in a tight race, means it is the first time since 1922 that the red rosette of Labour has not been worn by the constituency’s representative in the House of Commons.

Coun Grundy, though, is making the most of an opportunity he never thought he would get to take an active role in national politics.

He has already begun meeting Conservative ministers and speaking to them about local issues within the first week of his arrival.

He spoke of the first few hectic days following his win, getting down to the capital city to take his place in Parliament and then being introduced to the unique world of the House of Commons.

Coun Grundy said: “It is still almost surreal because of course I didn’t expect to be here. I am determined to do the utmost for my constituency in the time I have here.

“Arriving at the House of Commons as a new MP is a very unreal experience, but once you are in the chamber listening to the prime minister debate the leader of the opposition it becomes very real indeed.

“My family are absolutely over the moon and really proud. They want me to do my best for our community. Our family has lived in the area for generations.

“It’s so unlikely that I am the MP for Leigh, but I am hitting the ground running and speaking to as many ministers about as many things as possible.”

Coun Grundy says he has already asked for the controversial Parkside development in St Helens, which has caused a great deal of concern in neighbouring communities such as Lowton, to be called in for scrutiny at national level.

The issues of completing the Atherleigh Way bypass and bringing a train station for Leigh, which has prominently featured on an array of manifestos in the town for some years, have also been put in front of senior politicians.

Coun Grundy also got the chance to speak to health minister Matt Hancock about continuing access to drugs treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DND) after Brexit, something which he said is particularly close to his heart.

He said: “That has been the highlight for me so far because the question has been asked by a relative of a close friend.

“Making a difference to people you know is when you start thinking that this is all worthwhile.”

Coun Grundy has also met some of the other northern Conservative MPs arriving for the first time in Westminster, many of them in a similar situation and going to Parliament in unexpected circumstances after dethroninig Labour in seats which the red rosette had held for decades.

A large group of the rookie parliamentarians gathered in the office of Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry for a photo which has been shared on social media, though the picture’s all-male composition has led to raised eyebrows and outright criticism.

Coun Grundy said the meeting with Mr Berry was “quite optimistic” but was unable to give further details.

He also described the atmosphere in Parliament among the Conservative Party, particularly for the shock victors in seats which were previously described as Labour’s ‘red wall’, as “electric”.

Gaining election to Westminster is a disorienting and unusual process in which the candidate who only has victory declared in the early hours of a Friday morning has to then put all their previous affairs in order and rush down to London to be in position at the start of the following week.

That process is all the more intense and strange when it is a victory against all the odds, and although Coun Grundy has been a full-time councillor for the last few years since his father received a cancer diagnosis he says there has still been a lot to take in.

The circumstances of his victory over Labour candidate Jo Platt has also been felt by his entire family.

He said: “The Friday after the election was just a series of meetings and media interviews, before Saturday and Sunday was basically preparing to head down to London on the Monday.

“When the result was read out at the count the room exploded. It was too late in the night for my mum and dad to go along but they were woken up by an auntie from Cheshire going: ‘He’s won, he’s won’.

“I did have to ring the council and apologise about a few minor things which I am no longer able to sort out. There were one or two things I was planning to deal with which I will have to get round to dealing with.

“I’m staying in a hotel in London for the moment, so after a week of that I couldn’t wait to get back home to Lowton to see my family.”

Coun Grundy’s election has proved a shock to many people who believed it was not possible for a Conservative to win a seat such as Leigh.

But he had a message ready for those voters surprised to see him as their parliamentary representative.

He said: “In the words of Alderman Bernard Holt, a long-standing Labour councillor for Lowton, ‘nine out of 10 issues are not political. It’s about doing the right thing’. Those are words to live by as an elected representative.”