Meet your candidates: Liberal Democrat for Buckingham, Stephen Dorrell

As the 12 December General Election fast approaches, we're taking the opportunity to speak to the candidates for the much talked about Buckingham constituency.
Stephen DorrellStephen Dorrell
Stephen Dorrell

The seat has not been properly contested since 2005 due to the tradition of the main parties not putting up candidates against the Speaker of the House, which of course had been Buckingham's own John Bercow since 2009.

Last week, Mr Bercow confirmed he would not be standing again in the upcoming election.

Today, this paper spoke to the Liberal Democrat candidate for Buckingham, Stephen Dorrell.

Until recently this nomination would have seemed highly unlikely for at least two reasons – firstly he had retired and secondly he spent 36 years as a Conservative Party MP between 1979 and 2015.

Mr Dorrell explained that while his return had caused some consternation within his family he felt it was necessary due to the current political climate.

He said:

"I had decided in 2015 that I was leaving elected politics but I'm back. I couldn't report to you precisely what my family think - surprised shall we say to clean it up!"

Hailing from Worcester, we asked him why he chose to be a candidate in Buckingham. Mr Dorrell said:

"I'm not going to pretend to have deep personal links here, I've got friends here, but what I think is special about Buckingham is that while it's historically a Conservative seat, it's also a Remain voting seat.”

He continued:

“I think it's time for the liberal Conservatives to make common cause with the Liberal Democrats and even social democrats in the Labour Party. It's just as important for me in Buckingham to be able to speak for democrats with a Labour background who don't feel that Jeremy Corbyn speaks for them, as it is to be able to speak for liberal Conservatives who don't think that Boris Johnson speaks for them."

Mr Dorrell, who served as Health Minister in John Major's Government, said he has retained a passion for the health service and when asked about recent ward closures in Buckinghamshire replied:

“One of the things that the Liberal Democrats have always argued, and I agree with, is that local public services need to be more accountable to local people. Too often health service engagement with local people is putting out leaflets telling people what the health service has decided to do - that's not engagement.”

On the big issue of our time, Brexit, Mr Dorrell pulls no punches on where his allegiances lie.

“I'm chair of the European Movement, so I'm a very passionate Remainer,” he said, adding, “this line get Brexit done - the only way to get it over with is to recognise it's a mistake.”

Regarding the other contentious issue in the region, HS2, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Buckingham said:

“I'm not anti-development but what I do think is the fact that Buckingham is at the epicentre illustrates the need for doing these things differently. Instead of Whitehall drawing a line on a map and saying this looks good from London, in the modern world it has to be accountable to the people they affect most directly.”

Mr Dorrell is steeped in political history, even citing the 17th Century Buckinghamshire parliamentarian John Hampden as one of the appealing factors of the Buckingham constituency, and when describing his own political style he paraphrased former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Grimond, saying:

“If you want to make a difference you have to march resolutely towards the sound of gunfire.”

Away from politics Mr Dorrell, 67, spoke with pride about becoming a grandfather for the first time just two weeks ago and said he enjoys going to watch Worcestershire play cricket.