Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.
As elected leaders, politicians represent the interests of citizens, whether that’s as a local councillor, as a Member of Parliament serving a constituency or as a mayor banging the drum for an entire region. It’s our privilege to be the representative of the people we serve.
Yet I also believe that the political world itself needs to be more representative of society, attracting people from a broad range of backgrounds and professional skills to take up public office.
This is a subject I’ve written about before, when encouraging more people from a business background to enter public life, especially in executive roles like mayors.
In my case, after entering politics after decades in the business, I have often been aware of how the skills I developed in the boardroom have transferred to the mayor’s office – in terms of setting strategy, building a team and focussing on delivery.
But I also think real-life experience in the workplace helps develop values that can drive political discourse and change. This can help ensure that Parliament is attracting people with not only a political ideology but a genuine commitment to public service.
One of the reasons that I loved my time at John Lewis was because of the values that defined the business and made it different to some of our more corporate rivals. The values you bring when trying to enter public service are so important.
This is why I am so pleased that Neil Shastri-Hurst is the Conservative candidate in the upcoming North Shropshire by-election. Neil brings that record of public service to the table.
He spent most of his working career caring for people as a medic in the British Army and the NHS, two institutions that are imbued with a public service ethic that we arguably need to see more of in Parliament and public life.
Neil did his medical training at the widely renowned Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital in Oswestry, which is the largest town in North Shropshire. He had to give up his respected work as a surgeon after developing a medical condition that led to loss of feeling in his hands – a decision I know caused him great sadness.
Yet that wasn’t the end of Neil’s medical service – for when the pandemic hit and the NHS appealed for help, Neil went back to work, including time volunteering, just when the health service and all of us needed it most. This is the sort of person Neil is and why I am supporting him and going to be campaigning for him in this by-election – because he will make a first-class constituency MP.
He is a prime example of how someone with lived experience outside the political bubble can bring energy and expertise to public office.
I’ve known Neil for years and have learnt that he is very dedicated to the causes he believes in. He is a moderate, inclusive man who respects all communities, and wants to serve them.
He is also a passionate believer in the potential of the whole of the West Midlands, and I know he will work diligently with his neighbours and friends for everyone’s benefit. Bluntly, I can’t think of a more suitable person to join the West Midlands team in Parliament.
And that’s important because this is an exciting time to be in the West Midlands. The Government’s Levelling Up commitment is making big resources available to tackle long-standing issues locally.
With a strong local constituency MP in Neil Shastri-Hurst working and a Government committed to Levelling Up region’s like North Shropshire I’m confident much can be achieved there – as Neil has set out in his positive six point set of commitments.
Of course, for this to happen he has to be elected. By-elections are tough, especially with the circumstances of this one. So that means we all need to rally round Neil and ensure he wins, not just because he is the Conservative candidate but because he is the best candidate.
I’m going to be on the campaign trail and, of course, there on polling day – and we really need as many other people to join Neil’s campaign as possible. It’s already off to a flying start but we will need help on the ground and on the phones. If you can come in person, you will be assured of a warm welcome, positive campaign and some beautiful surroundings to deliver and canvass.
I hope you will come and join me in backing Neil – he will be a fantastic constituency MP, committed to living there and committed to doing one job and one job only – working for the people of North Shropshire.
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