I know people get fed up with politicians rowing but you don’t get far in politics or in anything else, unless you’re prepared to fight. There’s an old saying that sometimes dictates the outcome: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” The truth of this phrase has been evident throughout my entire time in politics. It was played out in the Brexit debate. It’s being played out in Ukraine right now.
I’ve been in one scrap after another. I’ve taken on unions. I’ve taken on prejudice. I’ve taken on Scottish Nationalists. I’ve taken on the Labour Party at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons and in my own constituency. Ian Blackford and I are well acquainted, similarly with Angela Rayner.
Some politicians try to sit on the fence and be all things to all people. I think the public quickly see through that. Even if you’re on differing sides of an argument, you can do business with someone if you know where they stand.
I’m known for fighting particularly for underdog causes which may be unpopular. Sometimes these groups are vilified, laughed at, looked down on, even persecuted for their beliefs. I remember a time when Brexiteers were treated like this. We were a minority, too. We were sneered at called stupid and shunned. We were told that our cause was hopeless. A whole establishment tried to scare us with the consequences of our beliefs. There would be mass unemployment. There would be no fresh food. House prices would crash. None of these things have happened, but the criticism hasn’t gone away. That’s why we need to keep fighting.
In my formative years, I also grew up fighting for another minority, the Conservative Party. After the last election, everyone wanted to be a Conservative MP, but twenty years ago it was very different. During the Blair Government, you couldn’t find a Conservative for love nor money. They were collector’s items. You had to be really committed to the cause. And yes, these days we’re getting a lot of flak again but it’s one of the reasons I love this party. It’s so full of people prepared to fight.
Outside of the people of Portsmouth, perhaps my greatest fight has been for equality. Although women are still a minority in politics and in my own party, we’ve made great progress. For years, women were patronised, ignored and even sexually assaulted on the premises of the House of Commons. We’re having a by-election right now because one of our colleagues was caught watching porn in the Division Lobby.
This is Pride Month. I know some criticise me for standing up for minorities and some even accuse me of not knowing what a woman is. I am a woman. I am biologically a woman. If I had a mastectomy or a hysterectomy, I would still be a woman. I am also legally a woman. I’ve never found standing up for my rights as a woman incompatible with standing up for vulnerable minorities. I know that biology is overwhelmingly important. I also know what the law is. Conservatives should know that demonising minorities never strengthens majorities, social or electoral.
In a similar way, we must fight the battle for lower taxation. We must not demonise another minority – the wealth creators. Making the rich poorer will never make the poor richer. If we’re going to deliver Brexit, we’ll need to attract all the wealth-creating energy we can to fight for it. There are some powerful forces ranged against us. Nobody will make it easy for us. In fact, many will make it a lot harder.
Maybe it’s because my Dad was a paratrooper from Portsmouth, I’ve always been up for a fight. They’re used to being surrounded by threats. So are many of my constituents. That’s why they’ll always find me ready to fight on their behalf. There is a campaign to portray me as being ‘woke’ and out of touch. You can be the judge of that. I’m from a single-parent family. I’ve worked in factories. I’ve volunteered for the NHS. I joined the Royal Navy Reserve as a rating and was later commissioned. I’m a committed Brexiteer. I’ve been known to swear.
I fought the Labour Party for Portsmouth North in 2005 and I lost. I came back again and won it in 2010 with an 8.6% swing (one of the largest in the country). At every election since, I have increased my majority. I now have 61% of the vote, with a majority that’s more than doubled. Portsmouth people are down to earth and don’t stand any nonsense. I refer you to their judgement. You don’t take them for granted. They are fighters, too and I am one of their own. We stand up for ourselves and others.