The number of ‘career’ MPs who reach their position on the basis of a degree in politics without having done a ‘real world job’ presents a challenge to good governance. But an even more major concern is how few have any real understanding of science and technology, when these are the very areas that could propel the UK forward as a leader in health, green energy and other key areas of opportunity.
The importance of local knowledge
With a doctorate in metrology – the science of measurement – Dr Adam Thompson is a great choice by the Labour Party to contest the constituency of Erewash in south-east Derbyshire. Living in Long Eaton, within Erewash, and working in the University of Nottingham, Adam is a local candidate with seven years knowledge and experience of the area he hopes to represent.
When I met him he was preparing for the general election, whenever it comes. The constituency is currently held by Maggie Throup MP, who won for the Conservatives in 2015 with a small majority that increased in 2017 and again in 2019. Does Adam feel he has a hill to climb?
“In 2015 I had just begun my PhD but had recently left secondary school teaching having seen the damage done to education by the Tories. When Labour lost the general election, I remember Ed Miliband saying, if you don’t like it and want change, join the Labour Party. So I did! I really joined to help the party move forward and have been organising with communities in Erewash since then, helping to fight for something better. I had no intention of going into politics myself, especially as I was working on my doctorate.”
He continues, “but I could see that politics really does affect people’s lives and got drawn in, being encouraged to stand for Parish and District Council posts. Although I just lost out on both, I got the bug and decided I had something to offer to my home area as the local MP. It has been (and continues to be) hard work, as it should be if you take the role seriously. So yes, there is a hill to climb, but when you think about it, we only need to see a few thousand people change their minds, and a lot has happened since the last general election in 2019.”
Preparation is the key
Has his campaigning as a prospective MP started in earnest yet?
“We must be prepared to fight an election at any time. I’ve been knocking on doors for some years now, backed up by a great team, and what I’m finding is that there’s a real interest in and appetite for change. It’s my job to listen. Not to harangue or argue, but to listen to local and national concerns and to ideas people have for the future. I’ve spoken to over 2,000 people on doorsteps since I was selected during the summer and one thing is clear – people in Erewash are ready for something different. I believe we have that change, ready to go, and I think Labour’s current policy platform and leadership represent the best for our country.”
What about local issues, might there be any clash with Labour’s national policies? “Most local people want to talk about how their daily lives are being affected by the current chaos in government,”he says “but we have significant local concerns about HS2 and how it will blight our area, particularly in the south of the constituency. I have spent years campaigning against HS2 and, if I’m elected, I will continue this fight as a local MP who will represent all my constituents.”
And Brexit, which is dragging down the economy and is still creating bitter divisions?
“Erewash decisively voted Leave, and we have left the EU. What we have to do now is make Brexit work for everyone, not just the rich, which seems to be the approach the Tory Party are taking. If everyone can see better prospects this will help to heal divisions, and in our next manifesto we will explain how we will make Brexit work for everyone in our society, by reworking the system from the ground up.”
Labour’s choice as candidate was brought up in a trade unionist family and is the UCU representative for engineering researchers at the University of Nottingham. Until recently, when he stood down to focus on his job as a Labour candidate, Adam was Vice Chair (Policy) for Scientists for Labour, and during the pandemic co-led a team of over a hundred science-based volunteers who provided daily briefings to the Labour front bench. He also worked directly with front bench MPs and peers, providing a conduit between elected representatives and experts in various scientific fields.
“The UK has massive growth potential in science and technology, nurtured by the innovation hubs established by Labour in the late 90s and early 2000s,” he says “but currently lacks a real grasp of this potential at government level. There is still an unwillingness to listen to experts amongst its elected policymakers, as can be seen by the debacle over fracking, which geologists had dismissed as being largely ineffective in the UK. When I’m elected, I look forward to being one of the MPs who will address this gap and help rebuild the country’s economy.”