When Alicia Kearns was elected as Melton’s new MP in the early hours of Friday she did so with a record majority of almost 27,000 votes and became only the second woman to take up the role.
She follows in the footsteps of Mervyn Pike, who was the first female Melton MP when she triumphed in the 1956 General Election.
In one of the nation’s safest of Conservative seats - occupied by Sir Alan Duncan for 27 years until he decided not to stand again this time - Mrs Kearns was backed by almost two-thirds of the 58,000 people who voted in the Rutland and Melton constituency.
As Mrs Kearns started work in Parliament this week, the Melton Times spoke to her about her election victory, her political motivations and her objectives as an MP.
This is what she had to say:
NICK RENNIE: Can you summarise your feelings on being elected as MP for Rutland and Melton and did you always want to become an MP?
ALICIA KEARNS: It is the greatest honour of my life to represent Rutland and Melton. I take very seriously the trust invested in me by our communities, and I’m determined not to let them down.
My career has focused on counter-terrorism and national security, working to keep our country safe, so politics will be quite a change. I hope to serve this constituency diligently and with passion.
NR: How important is it that you are the second woman to be elected in the constituency and are you concerned about the abusive treatment some female MPs have received in recent years?
AK: I am delighted that we have more women going into Parliament and involved in politics at all levels. The treatment of many people in public life has been far below what could be described as decent, and it isn’t just aimed at female MPs.
I hope that once we deliver Brexit and get moving on some of our key commitments that we can bring back courtesy and decency to public debate on a local and national level.
NR: Where did your drive to get into politics come from and what would you like to achieve during your time in office?
AK: My parents raised me to believe that personal responsibility and a commitment to communities both local and national are vital. We each have a duty to support our neighbours and see what we can do to support others – my greatest achievements will be the quietest ones, where I help someone locally with an issue they face.
Over the next five years I want to work to deliver a new GP surgery for Melton, improvements to our road infrastructure, including the delivery of the Melton bypass, and work towards a fairer local government funding model for Leicestershire to ensure we can deliver the services local people need.
NR: Your majority was the biggest in recent years in this constituency - what do you put that down to?
AK: Residents backed our clear offer to the country - we will uphold the democratic will of the British people and end the Brexit deadlock, and then crack on with the issues that matter most to us all – our safety, our health, our economy and our children’s futures.
I’m proud that locally we worked very hard, spending 10 hours a day out on the doorsteps, telephoning residents, or meeting them in our pubs, local events, or at our market days. I have visited all of our market towns and many of our 150 villages across the constituency, however, there is still more to be done and I shall be going out again in January to meet local people and to continue to listen to the issues that really matter to them.
NR: What issues did people mostly raise while you were canvassing, both local and national issues?
AK: The number one issue raised with me on the doorstep was Brexit and people’s understandable frustration that Parliament hadn’t just got on with it. Local residents believe that if they vote for something it should happen, and this hasn’t been the case with Brexit. On local issues, residents talked to me about local health service provision and rural crime, and their love of, and pride in, our beautiful area.
NR: How did you feel on election day? Were there any nerves and did you feel any pressure to uphold the 23,000 majority Sir Alan Duncan achieved at the last election in 2017?
AK: On polling day I visited 17 of the 121 polling stations across the constituency to thank the polling clerks and presiding officers without whom the election simply wouldn’t have happened. Naturally I felt excited and nervous on election day, and hopeful that our strong message nationally and hard work listening to residents locally, would secure lots of support – and it did.
NR: One of the criticisms levelled at Sir Alan Duncan was that he was rarely seen in the constituency due to demands on his time from Westminster. Do you intend to be visible in the area on a regular basis and how will you achieve this?
AK: I will absolutely put residents first. During the working week when I have to be in Parliament representing them, I will be raising issues that matter to us here in Rutland and Melton, and working to help residents with issues they face, but I intend to be in the constituency for the rest of the week. Living in Langham we will be attending lots of local events – so invite me along and if I can attend I will.
NR: Can you describe your family situation and what kinds of things you like to do with them in your spare time?
AK: I am married to a wonderful man, and we have a young son. As a family, we love exploring our beautiful countryside, and a good pub lunch.
NR: What are your emotions as you spend your first week working in the House of Commons as an MP?
AK: I feel a great deal of responsibility to represent our communities and to help individuals and families facing difficult times. The duty I feel to repay the trust they have put in me is immense, and I look forward to meeting many more of them and helping them as best I can.
NR: For those people who didn’t vote for you, what would you say to them about what you will try to achieve as their MP?
AK: I will always do all I can to help anyone from Rutland and Melton, regardless of whether they voted for me or not. I hope over the next few years to win the trust of those who may not see themselves as traditional Conservative voters.