The Tab Meets: Julian Huppert MP
Ahead of the General Election next May, JAMIE WEBB talks to Dr Julian Huppert about street lighting, drugs, DJing, and Westminster bullies.
If you were wondering, and you almost certainly aren’t, the Liberal Democrats office is located in a rather faded industrial park on the outskirts of (student) Cambridge, lot number 16.
The 6 has fallen off though, leaving the 1 alone as a reminder of everything the Lib Dems are currently not. Not number 1 in the polls, not the number 1 party in government, but certainly the number 1 most likely candidate to feel the pain at next years elections.
You could be forgiven for asking yourself what drove Dr Julian Huppert to abandoning a life in Cambridge academia for Westminster politics.
Especially considering next year he goes for reelection in a student town when the one thing everyone knows about the Lib Dems is their broken promises on fees (even if Huppert voted against the rise).
It’s a surprise then, to find him so outwardly optimistic, and still so clearly engaged with student issues.
On the Tab’s recent street lighting campaign, Huppert wants to see the temporary lighting on Jesus Green made permanent, and is alarmed by the notion that Libyan soldiers not knowing the local laws could be any kind of excuse.
‘I thought that not being allowed to assault people was a sort of generally understood thing.’
And whilst it’s unusual to see a politicians eyes light up at the thought of drugs, Huppert is keen for a reform of the laws. He wants a model where possession of all drugs is decriminalised, with the costs of prosecution going towards treatment.
‘When we had a debate last week, everyone who spoke was in favour of reform, with one exception: the Labour shadow minister who frankly got torn apart by her own side.’
He’s even more frustrated on many College’s refusal to pay the Living Wage. ‘They don’t see the need to. They get loads of people wanting to apply for the jobs anyway. And while that’s true, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat people in a decent way. I want to see all of the colleges doing the right thing.’
He’s also unsure of the wisdom of some of the no-platform protests against recent speakers at the University.
‘My own view of Farage for example is that he spouts a lot of rubbish, he makes stuff up as he goes along, but the way you tackle that is by having the discussion and demonstrating why what he says is wrong. If you allow him to portray himself as a martyr, thats how you help his cause.’
Then, the fees come up, as I imagine they always do. Why would anyone going to University vote for the Lib Dems?
‘Well I think there are extremely good reasons to vote for someone like me. I’m the first MP ever for Cambridge to vote against a fee increase. The previous Labour MP Ann Campbell voted for the fees: I was very active as a student here in protesting them. If you want to vote for someone who has opposed fees the entire time, that’s me.’
He also provides a pretty shocking insight into the way Westminster politics is carried out. For a period last year he was jeered when speaking in the Commons.
‘I think it’s disgraceful. There were a number of people who said to me, particularly women, that they just don’t take part in PMQs because of it, because they don’t like being targetted. When a particular female Conservative MP was called, you would hear shouts of ‘phwoar what a woman’.’
‘It’s not just women. There’s a Tory MP called Paul Maynard who has Cerebral Palsy – whenever he was speaking, there was a group of Labour MPs that would contort their faces at him. If this was to happen in a school, you would expel those people. ’
On a lighter note however, he did recently get to MC the Lib Dem disco. ‘There was a certain amount of cheese, but one track that was much more trance-y.’ Next stop Wednesday night Cindies? ‘If they wanted to hire me for the night we could see what we could do.’
And he clearly relishes the chance to relive his academic days. ‘Being a student was brilliant fun. I did quite a lot of music, Model United Nations, and a lot of volunteering with St John’s Ambulance. And tried to have friends and go out drinking. Frankly, Cambridge is a lot better for sciences than Oxford.’
‘And Dojos was a great place to go.’
Whatever box you’ll be putting your cross in come May, we can all agree on that.