Gil­lian Kee­gan ‘Mil­i­tant trade union­ists turned me Tory af­ter I saw how it cost us jobs’

The Sunday Telegraph - - ELECTION 2017 -

Age: 49 Seat: Chich­ester Tory ma­jor­ity: 24,413 Re­plac­ing: An­drew Tyrie It was mil­i­tant trade union­ists who turned Gil­lian Kee­gan Tory as a teenager. Af­ter leav­ing school aged 16, she took up an ap­pren­tice­ship with a sub­sidiary of Gen­eral Mo­tors.

Grow­ing up in Knowsley, Mersey­side, in the 1980s, Labour was the dominant po­lit­i­cal force in the area and Margaret Thatcher was pub­lic enemy num­ber one.

But the way Derek Hat­ton, part of the Trot­sky­ist group Mil­i­tant, was run­ning Liver­pool coun­cil and back­ing strike ac­tion seemed deeply un­fair to Ms Kee­gan.

“I’ve al­ways voted for the Con­ser­va­tives,” she says.

“At that time, the unions were all pow­er­ful and mak­ing it very unattrac­tive for in­ward in­vest­ment.

“I just knew that eco­nomic ap­proach wasn’t go­ing to work and it would cost peo­ple jobs. And it did – but the peo­ple in the unions kept their jobs and those on the shop floor didn’t.”

Three decades later, Ms Kee­gan is on course to be­come Chich­ester’s first ever fe­male MP – de­spite only turn­ing to pol­i­tics three years ago.

Her ap­pren­tice­ship was fol­lowed by a suc­cess­ful busi­ness ca­reer that saw her work across the world in­clud­ing Tokyo, soon mak­ing more than 200 flights a year.

But a chance meet­ing with a Tory big­wig at the theatre in 2014 prompted a change which led to Ms Kee­gan fight­ing three elec­tions in as many years, in­clud­ing join­ing Chich­ester coun­cil.

If she en­ters Parliament as ex­pected next month, Brexit will be a pri­or­ity. “We have to se­cure trade and busi­ness, and still be at­trac­tive to in­ward in­vest­ment,” she says.

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