‘Together we can weather Brexit but it will be stormy’
THE bitter feud that led to Anne McIntosh’s deselection in 2015 – and the intense media coverage that followed – would have been enough to send the most experienced politician into hiding.
But far from shying away from political life, the former MP for Thirsk and Malton finds herself back at the very heart of it during one of the most eventful periods in recent history.
Speaking to just days after a tense vote in the Commons on the Government’s latest Brexit Bill, the enthusiasm and sense of duty she feels in her new role as a peer is unmistakable.
And if she feels any resentment towards the events – or individuals – which led her there, she hides it well.
“It could have been handled better, I think,” she says, after pausing to reflect. “But I’ve now got an incredible opportunity to work with my former colleagues.
“When I left, there was no question of me coming here at that time, it wasn’t on the cards. So I set up a little business and I’m lucky enough to have one or two outside interests.
“I never had the time to do that when I was in the House of Commons. So I’ve got a whole new lease of life which I’m very grateful for.
“I should thank them,” she adds with a smile.
The Conservative peer is not exaggerating when she says she has found time for new interests. In addition to chairing an ad hoc committee looking at alcohol licensing laws, she runs her own small consultancy company, is president of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and is an honorary vice-president of the Encephalitis Society – a condition from which her husband has suffered.
She joined the House of Lords in October 2015, a year and a half after she was deselected by her local Conservative party amid accusations of “divisiveness” on her part and factionalism among party members.
But despite the two years that have passed since, she says she still feels “very much a new girl” in the House, adding that she has been “on a steep learning curve”.
“I knew surprisingly little about how the Lords operates; the procedures are quite different and the hours are different... I’m scared of putting a foot wrong,” she adds.
“We’re self-regulating, so the Lords Speaker doesn’t control the proceedings. [But] there are 800 of us, of which 450 are very active, and it can be a bun fight if your name isn’t on the order paper.
“We’re all very competitive still, really.”
Given the amount of scrutiny around the role and purpose of the Lords in recent years, did she have any doubts about taking up the position?
“I was carving out a new career. But to be asked to serve in Parliament... I hardly had any hesitation,” she insists. “I told two people – one was my husband – and just asked their advice: should I put it all behind me? But I was absolutely thrilled when it was confirmed.”
McIntosh’s journey into professional politics began in the European Parliament.
The daughter of a Scottish doctor and a Danish mother who met in Germany during the war, she says it struck her from an early age that “working in Europe can make a big difference to peace in Europe”.
After several years spent as an adviser to the Conservative group in the European Parliament – including for the former MEP Gloria Hooper, with whom she now shares an office in