Meet the Lichfield candidates: Michael Fabricant (Conservatives)

Michael Fabricant talks to The Lichfield Blog. Pic: Harry Warburton

Michael Fabricant being interviewed. Pic: Harry Warburton

Michael Fabricant has vowed that he won’t become complacent as he aims to extend his time as MP for Lichfield.

And the Conservative candidate believes people need to look at his “proven track record” when making their minds up at the general election on May 6.

He has been busy on the campaign trail in recent weeks as he bids to continue a run as Lichfield MP which stretches back to 1997. Before that he represented the area as Mid-Staffordshire MP, a seat he won in 1992, following a failed attempt to get elected in the Labour stronghold of South Shields in 1987.

But despite a Parliamentary career which now stretches back more than 15 years, Mr Fabricant showed no signs of taking his foot off the pedal as he chatted to Streethay residents following a hectic schedule of door-knocking and official engagements.

And as he took time out from wooing the voters to speak to The Lichfield Blog, the Conservative hopeful admitted that he hoped his enthusiasm for the post would be reflected at the polls.

He said:

“I never take anything for granted – that’s why I work hard for Lichfield. Five years ago, to the horror of the then Chief Whip, I told incoming Conservative MPs that they report not to the Leader and Chief Whip, but to the people who elect them.

“I hope the people of Lichfield recognise, as I do, that my ultimate loyalty lies not with the party, but with them. I hope they look at my track record and see that as an MP I have been active in dealing with the many problems constituents have come to me with over the years.”

But despite still being highly active as he pounds the political beat, Mr Fabricant admits that he’s somewhat disappointed by the atmosphere on the campaign trail.

A ban on political advertisements on lamp-posts has led to what the Conservative candidate describes as a “subdued” campaign.

However, at a time when he has seen a Conservative colleague take a step back from the front-line as Cllr David Smith decided to relinquish his leadership of Lichfield District Council, Mr Fabricant has sought to re-assure voters that he has no intention of taking a back seat.

He explained:

“When will I decide that I won’t be carrying on? Probably when I’m not popular, capable or don’t have the energy to carry on. But my colleagues have pointed out that I’ve got more life in me than many of the younger candidates campaigning up and down the country at the moment!”

The general election campaign at a local level has been somewhat overshadowed by the national issues that have come out of the televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties.

Added to the expenses scandal which rocked a number of MPs, it would be easy to assume that local concerns could be overshadowed by other issues.

Not the case, according to Mr Fabricant:

“All I can do is try to win my seat in Lichfield. The national issues don’t have as much of an impact as you would expect. Take the perceived rise in popularity for the Liberal Democrats for example. If there is a jump in support it seems to be among younger voters in areas where they are already strong.

“I’m amused that in Lichfield constituency the Liberal Democrats are claiming that, based on parish results, they are running second to the Conservatives and they can repeat this in the general election. The truth is that the Liberal Democrats have been in distant third at every general election since 1992.

“In terms of expenses, I hope the people of Lichfield are proud of me as I was one of those who has not been caught up in the scandal and have been proven to be value for money. It is sad that a dozen or so MPs abused the system, while a lot of the exposes were for trivial items which they were entitled to claim for. I have sympathy for the MPs vilified in order to sell newspapers when they have not done anything morally wrong.

“I hope now that we will be able to draw a line under the issue.”

So if the national issues don’t have the electorate in Lichfield and Burntwood talking, then what does?

According to Mr Fabricant, two issues have dominated the local political agenda. He explained:

“The high speed rail route and the amount of housing development being planned for the area are the big issues that keep raising their heads. The route of  the railway line is something the people of Lichfield, like myself, are vehemently opposed to – and the situation is no different on housing.

“Yes, Lichfield District needs new housing, but all analysis shows that only 3,500 to 4,000 new homes are needed between now and 2020 to meet the needs of the area. The problem is that the targets are set by the Regional Spatial Strategy in Birmingham. The number and the density of planned housing is all wrong.

“If the Conservatives win the election within six months regional strategies will be abolished and power will be handed to local districts to make decisions on housing targets and other issues. It will also enable Staffordshire County Council to set targets on gravel extraction rather than the region.”

But while many voters have been telling Mr Fabricant about excessive housing development figures, others have often voiced concerns about the unaffordable nature of housing in Lichfield and the surrounding areas.

However, Mr Fabricant believes that people need to be “realistic” when it comes to property prices. He said:

“There will always be affordable homes, but we have to be realistic about it. I have a tiny flat in Westminster, yet I know that if I moved out to somewhere like Brixton I could buy a big house. It is the way things are sometimes.”

In a general election where the use of social networking sites and other new technology has come to the fore, the Conservative candidate is probably ahead of the game when it comes to many of his peers.

And in a vote where the digital landscape is likely to shape the outcome, Mr Fabricant claims it is crucial for MPs to understand the changing face of communication. He added:

“There have been issues raised on Facebook and Twitter that I would not have known about were it not for my having a presence on these sites. They give you an insight into what people in your constituency are talking about.

“Politicians need to take advantage of these sites. After all, there is no point being an MP if you can’t be seen or heard. Communication is now a two-way medium and we have to be able to interact.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

1 Comment

  1. nonoftheabove

    5th May, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Before you vote for Mr Fabricant ask him about his expenses, in particular the Accountancy charges.