Would you say the campaigning of Shropshire and, obviously the candidate himself, was a big part of why you decided to leave? Did it feel like the party wasn’t representing the area as it should?
The candidate himself, I met him, I walked around [Market Drayton] with him, spoke to the general public with him, and I listened to him talk to the people. He had a very, very, very little of an idea at all about a rural area and our politics. He wanted to pass a six-point plan, that’s all he’s interested in. Not at all that our town, Market Drayton, was suffering from, the industries we have, or the transportation problems we have. He had a generic six-point term, and there’s no interest, and if he goes in, he’ll probably move to Shropshire. Well probably isn’t good enough. And not even doing his basic homework doesn’t wash with me.
With the candidate process, was there a lack of representation ? We heard that there was only one person from Shropshire from the candidate shortlist – is there anything more you can tell me about that?
The candidate shortlist was given to us, we had phone calls with all the candidates, to introduce themselves, which was good. Three candidates to my knowledge, not two. There was a candidate who actually lived in Shropshire, you’re absolutely correct about that. It was very quite obvious who the vote was going too, before we voted. I won’t go as far to say it was rigged, but I will say I was disappointed in the procedure.
Could you describe to people, who may not know how by-election, or general candidate selection, what the procedure is?
Okay, what happens is, the executive are given a number of people who they think are suitable to stand for the position, the position was MP which is a very unusual thing because it rarely happens, well it hasn’t happened in my time in Shropshire because we had such a long-standing MP. So, just to find people who are prepared to stand, because they’re stepping in quite big boots, so it’s quite difficult to locate. You needed people who would represent the farming communities, represent the local industries, you needed people who know what’s happening. And unfortunately, to parachute somebody, that’s what it felt like, parachute someone from outside, who happened to be a barrister, who happened to be, and i don’t want to be getting difficult about this, not from Shropshire quite obviously, and people couldn’t pronounce his name. It was a ridiculous situation. Any other large city of metropolis in Britain, he would’ve dropped in there fine, but in Shropshire, sorry but no.
In regards to the Owen Patterson situation, would you rather Boris Johnson had stuck by him the whole way, or didn’t support him to begin with?
The actual fact is that the panel that goes in front of is one man. The one man has no remit, his decision is final. He doesn’t have to take witnesses, I’ve seen seventeen witness statements taken that say Patterson didn’t do what he’s been accused of doing. But those statements were not taken, they didn’t have to be taken because the situation was made not to. Quite a large number of Labour candidates have already been brought up on exactly the same situation as Owen Patterson, not one of them have resigned. Usually they go for a month away, and that’s it. And that’s exactly what Owen Patterson was going to do, and they were gonna reform the situation with a proper panel of three or four people in that panel and you have a fair hearing. This wasn’t a fair hearing, it wasn’t even kangaroo court. It was just one decision on one man, end of story.
What do you find in Reform that you havent found in other right-wing parties, including the Conservatives?
I’ve tried a fresh outlook. I mean, its conservative with a small “c” if you want to go that way, but its new ideas, it’s people moving on ideas that the smaller towns need. Right now, Market Drayton, it’s ignored, and I’m talking for my town, I’m talking for my community and where I live and I will always fight for that. We are just ignored, and we need someone who will listen to us. Owen listened to us, he did a lot of work for us, and Kirsty knows the area, she knows exactly what to do with the farming community and with small businesses. Her family owns a small business, and the infrastructure problems we have with travel. So you need people who will actually understand your problems, and the old Conservative party didn’t understand our problems, or just wanted to ignore it, and ignoring things just doesn’t phase me. When I asked somebody to visit me, at my committee meeting, and it’s the next possible candidate we have, he doesn’t even bother showing up, and he doesn’t even send an apology. I’m sorry but that’s not the kind of chap I want. To be for granted is one thing and ignored is another.
What do you think could bring you back to the Conservative Party, or do you feel like under this premiership, it’s almost ruined the entire essence of the party for you?
I think Prime Minister Johnson has done what Corbyn has done for Labor. I think he’s absolutely killing it for himself, with no help from anybody else, because he doesn’t need it. Everything he does, is either just before an election, just before a by election, and he just goes absolutely bananas. Decisions going back on him himself again, and again. There’s been many u-turns in many governments, they do happen but what’s happening right now is absolutely ridiculous. We cannot go to the general public, and speak to them truly, and I speak to many Conservative voters and they say to me, “who do I vote for? I can’t vote for Conservative anymore, I don’t know who to vote for”. That’s a problem.
So do you think there’s been a big switch, to where many Conservatives are either going to the Liberal Democrats, or to Reform or any of the more prominent parties?
I think that the big move will be to Reform, because it’s the newest of conservatives as you’re going to find. It’s just a modern version of it, but is a very good modern version of it. And I don’t think the Conservative Party will catch up, I don’t think they’re capable of it. Reformists have very good policies and I think literally they will do what’s on the tin, they will reform the government itself, and look at the situations we are in now. That’s what I hope, and that’s what I strive for.
What do you think the result will be?
If I’m honest, I think we can come a very close second. If we win, it’s going to be right up to the bar. But I think the more the Conservatives push, the more they’re going to wreck themselves, because every time they open their mouth, they shoot themselves in the foot. Kirsty is streets ahead, I’m not being biased, but she’s very good, it’s taken me a lot of time to make this decision and I know the parents, I know their political histories, I lived in Oswestry for ten years, I lived in Ellesmere for a few years, and I’ve lived all round Shropshire, I know the areas very well. She understands them, because she’s been there so long. You need whoever gets in there as candidate has to be from Shropshire because they understand whats happening here, and Kirsty does. The other chap whose standing, he has no idea.
At the moment, the bookies are saying the Liberal Democrats are the favorite, do you think there is any truth in that?
No, I don’t think the Liberal Democrats would at all. Mainly because they chop and they change, and they chop and they change. I really don’t think they will get here. They have a lot of feet on the ground but have we. Reform, I had an opening a few days ago, I expected, in reality, I expected six chaps to turn up, to say “thank you Mark for joining us”. There were more like 36 people, from all over the country. They turned up to congratulate me and thank me for joining them. That’s how dedicated they are. These were the major holders in their areas, who came in to see me. Does it make me feel more important? Yes it does, that’s what it’s meant to do. But did it make me feel this is quite a good organization? Yes, because when I said I was going to do an interview with you, I rang it in. And I said, could you see if this chap is alright. You were checked out, student doing your work. I’ve seen some of the interviews you’ve done and yes, very, very good. Nobody was biased against you, we were saying you were a young chap, trying to find your way doing work at your university, and I thought, “great”. They gave a fair analogy of you, and they said go and do it. Conservatives would, and I don’t think the Liberal Democrats would’ve.
Reform is a brand new party, built upon Nigel Farage. Do you feel that without Nigel Farage, we’ve seen in Hartlepool, they under-performed, in Old Bexley, they didn’t get what they anticipated they would get? Do you feel that that natural struggle with a small right-wing party?
In reality, Farage as right in what he did. I was for Brexit, I still am. I think Germany, France are acting like school children now. They’ve lost us, so they’re gonna try and punish us. Well, let them. We win in the end. Britain knows we are quite a strong nation. We do well. Farage himself, very good, dedicated chap. He did again, what he had on the tin. He did that job. He was in favor of Brexit, as far as he’s concerned, “well I’ll move on”. Then there’s a bigger picture, the world changes all the time, that’s what happens. We’ll see now, that there’s something there now that needs change, and that’s the reform of the way governments done. We’ve now got Labour and Conservative. Yet again, they never agree with each other, ever. One says one thing, the other argues against the other, and that’s all they do. There’s no urgent decisions being made, they all hammer against each other and they’re ignoring what is a catastrophe that’s happening to this country right now. We need people with modern lives, modern thinking and modern ideas and that’s what Reform will do.
Obviously talking about yourself as an individual, you’re a long serving member on the Market Drayton council. Now you’re under Reform, and not the Conservatives, what do you think you’ll be able to do for the Council that you haven’t been able to do previously?
Now there’s the thousand-dollar question. As Labour and the Conservative party, I had a group of people that we could, not run a party, but run a council, but we could work together. As a single individual, at the moment, that may be difficult, it may be not. But right now, at town council level, you work for the town. When you’re standing for town, that’s everything, politics. But when your on the council, politics has nothing to do with it. You shouldn’t be there, on that town council if you’re political, you should be there for the town, you should be there for the people. Thats what I’m there for. I couldn’t see the Conservatives right for Market Drayton, and that’s why I’m now in Reform, because I can see the goodness in that party. I can see what they can do and I can work with people. I normally do a lot of different projects. I’m all over the place and I think working in a town council, though I can’t push things as far as I used to, I certainly know my way around a committee and I don’t think I’ll do too bad.
Going forward in the Reform Party, are you going to be going round campaigning in the next election or what’s your personal plans going forward?
What are my personal plans? I want to actually set up a Reform Party actually within the town itself. I’d like to have as many seats as we got in the council standing as Reform. That’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to set up a full party of Reform in Market Drayton as a Chair there. That’s what it’s all about because the more people understand what it’s about, the more people say “actually that sounds quite good”. Because there’s so many, how many people are standing in this by-election? 17, is it 17? And it includes the raving loony party, is every party correct? No they’re not. Some of them might be, some of them have some good projects, some of them have some very bad projects. But look the reality, if the projects are for the towns they are representing, and they work for the towns, well the, that’s what you should be for, and when you look at the majority of projects that are correct, even when I lead the Conservative Party, in the town council, when I put projects forward, my guys vote me down. They have done so in the past. I’ve said in the past, when you’re in there, it’s a democracy. I don’t chastise up for voting an idea I have down, because they’ll come up with a different idea and that’s better. That’s what democracy is and that’s what a town council is. That’s what a town council should be. That’s how Market Drayton is, it’s a democracy, we work together. A bit difficult with the Independents but we’ll get there.
We’ve heard from various people from the last five years that when they’ve left, the party that they’ve identified with or been apart from, that they feel hurt and it feels strange to them. Did you get any strong emotions when you finally left the party and moved to Reform?
I got a few emails from the leaders of the party, and they were good. “I’m sorry to see you go, Mark, you’re one of the good ones”. Things like that. “Best of luck Mark, sorry to lose ya.” I didn’t get any derogatory remarks, which is surprising. I was expecting a tsunami of insults and you know what, I got none, and that makes me feel good. Maybe I’m a nice guy, i don’t know, maybe I’m too night but they quite easily could’ve been very nasty if you know what I mean but i’ll not say they were nasty, because they weren’t.
The Conservative Party themselves, when I left them, were okay. They weren’t nasty about it. In reality, for me, it’s quite a big move. I’ve also been the chairman of all Town councils and Parish councils in Shropshire, for the last seven years, and that’s supported by all of the councilors in Shropshire, are on that committee. When I went on it, there were only twenty five, now there’s like forty odd. I built it up, every single Parish Council is a part of that committee now. That’s not political because all the councils are run by other people. That’s how organizations should be run, because that’s for the betterment of everybody. There’ll never be a non-betterment party if you know what I mean, but there’ll be a party that’s for the people, really and I think that now, is Reform. I’m hoping that’s going to build and build, and from what I gather – I know that I’m blowing a bit of a trumpet, I know that and I’m sorry but the other night, it was a really good night. It was a lot, lot better than I expected and the greetings and the thanks and one guy traveled down from Newcastle-upon-tyne. I’m from Hartlepool originally so I know exactly how far he traveled to see me. That’s very impressive when somebody travels nearly two hundred miles to see you on an evening. That takes quite a bit of doing.