‘To­gether we can weather Brexit but it will be stormy’

Yorkshire Post - - POLITICS INTERVIEW -

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

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