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MP looks back at 2 years in Parliament

Monday 7th May 2012 (Andrew Griffiths)
MP looks back at 2 years in Parliament

ANDREW Griffiths has been Burton’s MP for two years. His term of office has been a white knuckle ride — but one he would not have missed for the world, despite its numerous highs and occasional lows.

Here, in an interview with chief reporter ADRIAN JENKINS, the Tory looks back at his first 24 months and outlines his ambitions for the 36 which remain

“I CAN’T believe it’s already been two years since the result was announced and I was elected MP for Burton,” says Andrew Griffiths.

His surprise is justified, given it does seem unbelievable that 24 months have passed since the early hours of May 7, 2010, when the voters handed him the keys to Parliament’s door.

But the history books are clear: the Tory did indeed wrest control of the constituency from Labour for the first time in 13 years, outpolling his opponents by 6,304 votes as Gordon Brown’s red tide rolled out.

“I’ve still got very vivid memories of entering through the gates of Parliament for the first time and thinking that it was real that I had been elected,” he says.

“I still get that same excitement when I cross the river and walk up to Big Ben and see the Houses of Parliament before me.

“I still get the same thrill and excitement and when I stop getting that kick of seeing Parliament and being part of it, that will be the time to quit.”

Mr Griffiths’ proximity to power has already provided him memories galore, such as US President Barack Obama’s address to Parliament and the Queen and Prince Philip’s visit to Westminster Hall to celebrate the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee.

Whenever he can, the MP does his best to sprinkle some of this parliamentary magic dust over his constituents, and is proud to say he has already hosted visits by more than 700 of them.

But Mr Griffiths was elected to serve the people of Burton and Uttoxeter and, so far at least, has relished the challenge.

“The thing I’ve enjoyed more than anything else is my work in the community,” he says.

“What I’ve tried to do is to be Burton’s representative at Westminster and not the other way around.

“It’s been a really humbling experience to be invited to see so much of the brilliant community work that goes on in our town and I’m always humbled by just how much dedication and commitment there is from people who make up in Burton what David Cameron calls the ‘big society’.

Particularly pleasing, Mr Griffiths says, has been uniting people in common causes that have made real differences to people’s lives, such as the successful battle to save the Elizabeth Court retirement complex, in Winshill, and the campaign for faster broadband in Burton.

One of these battles, the fight to save Burton’s inpatient psychiatric unit, the Margaret Stanhope Centre, has proved to be his biggest positive — and negative.

“The night I drove home from Stafford knowing we had failed in the campaign to keep the Margaret Stanhope open was possibly the most miserable and depressing time I’ve had as an MP,” he says.

“For the first time I felt a bit powerless — that despite all of the effort and commitment and hard work that everyone had shown, we had not achieved what we set out to achieve.

“While we did not succeed, the campaign was a good example of a community uniting for a common cause and showed politics in a good light — that people from all political parties could put their party differences aside and work together to try to save something that was so important to the community,” he says.

But though Mr Griffiths has learned he ‘can’t click his fingers and make things happen’, and can only seek to use his influence for positive ends, his awareness of the limits of an MP’s powers has not checked his ambition.

He is keen to do more to bring jobs to Burton, particularly for young people, and to help the town’s voluntary and community sector.

Two years of his mandate have flown by, but Mr Griffiths is looking forward with optimism to the three that remain.

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