It was an honour to be selected as the Conservative Candidate for York Central by Party members on Sunday evening. This is the most important Election our city has faced in many years.
At the selection meeting, I shared a simple vision with Party members: York is an incredible city – a city that brings together a world-class combination of education, innovation, and industry.
Right now, York has so much going for it – it just needs a little more on the national stage of what its many thousands of shopkeepers do so well every day: salesmanship.
I think about York as a Yorkshireman, not a politician. This is where I grew up. It is a city I have known and loved for over thirty years. For many years I was a chorister, and later Head Chorister, in York Minster. For much of the last century, my father, grandfather and great grandfather ran a garage – Norman Ankers – in the city centre.
So it is only natural that I feel incredibly proud of this city. I think it is one of the greatest cities in the world. But by any fair standard, I believe we could be banging the drum for York a lot louder on the national and international stage.
There are so many examples where York deserves a stronger voice in our national politics. Take York’s business community.
York is home to some fantastic, successful, thriving businesses. It is a great place to start up and grow a new enterprise. But we need to give these businesses a stronger platform to trade and invest for the future.
The Northern Powerhouse is a big opportunity. It is vital that York has an MP who can champion its business community and help them access the hundreds of millions of pounds available through the Powerhouse. It would be a huge disappointment if the Northern Powerhouse ends up focusing mainly on Manchester. We need a Conservative MP to make sure more of York’s businesses benefit.
I also believe we can boost even further York’s tourist industry. Each year, 7 million tourists visit our city. But at the last count in 2015, York was only 17th for overnight inbound visits – more people stay the night in Southampton, Inverness or Cardiff.
If more visitors could be inspired to stay longer, York would be even stronger. And if York was finally granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status, I believe many more tourists would stay longer in our city.
I cannot understand why York has still not received UNESCO status. It is high time York had an MP who led a successful application. As someone who spent many happy days as a Young Archaeologist in this city, I would be honoured to take on that task. As those who love York know, this is not just a medieval city, but also a Roman city, a Viking city, an eighteenth century city, and a powerhouse of the industrial revolution.
It is right that our first priority is to support those businesses that are already based here – and we have an urgent priority to give our full support to those whose jobs have been threatened at Nestle.
But we also need an MP who will help bring more of tomorrow’s businesses into our city. I strongly believe it is an MP’s role to fly the flag for more inward investment to help power our city’s future, while supporting our public services and making sure York’s businesses get the best from new trade deals.
As we negotiate Brexit, two things are vital. First, we must secure the best possible deal with the EU by giving the Prime Minister the strongest possible negotiating position. Second, we need a Conservative MP for York Central to make sure York’s voice is heard in those Brexit negotiations. The last thing York’s businesses need for the future is confusion and uncertainty – or an MP who can’t speak clearly for them as we head into negotiations which will shape our economy for decades.
Business is just one of many areas – from housing and transport, to education, research and crucially the NHS – where we need to make sure York has a voice that counts in the corridors of power. Only a Conservative MP for York can do that.
Over the next few weeks, I will be campaigning on these issues and doing my best to give York the voice it needs and deserves in Parliament. My starting point will be to do something politicians often talk about but don’t often do – listen. I’m looking forward to spending time listening to the people, families, communities and businesses of our great city, to understand their hopes, concerns and aspirations.
The pledge I make in return is to make sure that working people in York have a strong voice to represent them in Parliament – so that together, we can make York a city that works for everyone.