The MP Interview: Lisa Nandy

On legal aid, getting out of the Westminster bubble, and karaoke classics.

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan.
Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan.

What made you go into politics?
Margaret Thatcher and the feeling that government wasn’t just not sticking up for people in the north-west, it was actively working against them.

What job did you do before you became an MP?
I worked at Centrepoint, the youth homelessness charity, and then at The Children’s Society for five years.

Which law would you scrap?
If I had to choose one I’d reverse the restrictions on legal aid in the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill. We’ve made huge strides in housing and employment law over several decades, and at one stroke the government has made those rights virtually unenforceable.    

And if you could pass one law, what would it be?
A right to universal, free childcare. It’s good for the economy, good for children, and would stop women being barred from the workplace if they choose to have children.

Do politics and religion mix?
Not in the pub.

Who is your favourite prime minister from history, and why?
Can I have a foreign Prime Minister? I’d choose Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian PM. Of course I don’t agree with every choice he made, but he was genuinely progressive before his time. For a British PM surely it has to be Attlee?

Name three dream dinner-party guests.
John Stuart Mill, Britney Spears and my friend Pete.

Which politician from a different party do you most admire?
Shirley Williams because she speaks for what she thinks is right, not just what she thinks is popular. I don’t always agree with her, but I like that she takes on difficult issues like immigration with a sense of humanity. I admire any politician who sees their role as an educator and shaper of public opinion and doesn’t just follow opinion polls or parrot their party line.

What’s your karaoke song of choice?
"Never Forget" by Take That. The choir bit is hard though.

What’s the last film you saw?
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I watched it on a plane on a screen about the size of my BlackBerry. Not the best idea if you want to have a clue what’s going on.

What’s the last work of fiction you read?
Michael Gove’s evidence to the Education Select Committee in January. I’ve also just finished The Pearl by John Steinbeck which was a better read.

Newsnight or Question Time?
Neither. West Wing beats both hands down.

Humphrys or Paxman?
Paxman because just occasionally he lets his interviewee get a word in edgeways.

Who is your favourite blogger?
Charlie Brooker although I’m not sure he qualifies. Is he more of a columnist? If I can’t have him I’ll take Iain Dale because I gather he gave me an award, albeit for being the most out of touch MP.

Who is your favourite newspaper columnist?
Michael Skapinker at the FT. His business and society column is seriously brilliant – fair, expert, original and passionate.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
I’d spend more time with the people I represent and less time in the Westminster bubble. I think if we spent more time outside we’d talk more about the things people care about – social care, housing, low pay, agency work - and less about things that obsess a small group of people in London.

What’s the funniest or saddest thing you’ve ever heard at a surgery?
Most of the cases are heartbreaking but occasionally things tickle you. There was one man who’d been taking anger management classes but when he was refused a gun licence it made him furious and he "lost his head". He wanted the decision reversed. On balance it didn’t seem like the best idea.
    
What was your worst doorstep campaigning moment?
A guy who asked me out on a date after he’d refused to sign my petition to save the NHS because he didn’t trust politicians. And it was raining.

Who is the most important person in your life, and why?
My researcher appears to have typed her own name in here (Louise Haigh).

Do you think you will ever be prime minister – and if not, why not?
There is no way to come off well from this, so can I just say I’m enjoying being the MP for Wigan. That’s all you’re getting!