17:49 Wednesday 13th May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Speaking in his first broadcast interview since he lost his seat as Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert has told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire that the Liberal Democrats ‘failed to clarify their true values’ during the national election campaign. He went on to say that despite errors, forming a coalition was the right thing to do. But he wished they’d made public their frequent clashes and battles with the Conservatives. Dotty McLeod our Breakfast presenter caught up with him earlier.
JULIAN HUPPERT: Look it’s a really really difficult thing, because there’s also the five years of hard work. MP is the hardest job I’ve ever done by a mile. There’s the campaign itself, so huge pressure, huge intensity, particularly all the hustings that we had. An incredibly long day. I’d been up by the time we got the result for well over twenty four hours. So it’s complete exhaustion, and the sense of being bereft, being shell-shocked, particularly when it’s so close. It was hard to know what was happening. So I’ve taken a few days to try to unwind, catch up on some sleep, try to come to terms with it. And in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s harder, because people keep stopping me on the streets, or emailing me, or tweeting or whatever, to say mostly really really nice sweet comments, which is really nice. But emotionally it’s quite hard. I’ve had to go through some of the other slightly difficult things, emptying my office in Westminster, going through the process of making all my staff redundant. A lot of tough things. Also some good news – we’ve had a huge growth in LibDem membership. We’ve had getting on I think now for a hundred and fifty new members here in Cambridge, which is phenomenal. But I wish they’d joined two weeks ago. If they’d all recruited four more people I’d have won. (LAUGHS) But yes, it’s a very tough time, coming back into the outside world. Very odd.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We’re talking here at the Liberal Democrat HQ in Cambridge, as was, just off Newmarket Road. It’s the political epicentre, or was for you. Do you see yourself staying in politics?
JULIAN HUPPERT: It’s too early to make any firm decision as to what I’ll do. But I’ll always be a Liberal. I’ll always care about these issues. And I’ll always care about Cambridge. These aren’t just things that I turn on to be a politician, and turn off when I go home. So yes, I still want to try to deliver better things for Cambridge. I’m very proud of much of what I did, money for schools, for our NHS, a new station, the new possible east/west rail, extra money for cycling, support for walking. There’s so much, and there’s so much I haven’t yet managed to do. So I’ll still be thinking about all of that. And there’s so much nationally. One of the things that really bugs me is just how many things will now either happen, because I won’t be there to stop them, or won ‘t happen, that I was leading the fight on.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What kind of thing? Today in the news, the snooper’s charter has been mentioned, or to give it its official name ..
JULIAN HUPPERT: ..The Communications Data Bill. Yes, that’s just one example where I led the fight against that. I’m the person who got it killed off before. We’re now going to have the Tories push it through I fear. Labour were quite supportive previously. I’m sure they’ll find some way to disagree on some details, so that they can make feel .. . but they’re broadly on the same page as the Tories on it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: You said on Twitter last Friday that you were scared of what the country could be like for the next five years, or after the next five years, with a Tory government. What did you mean by that, beyond the things that you’ve just mentioned?
JULIAN HUPPERT: There are lots of things. Let’s take the £12 billion of welfare cuts the Tories say they want to do. They refuse to say what they would be before the election. I fear we’re going to find out, and they will be damaging many of the poorest in society. These are the things that we would not and did not allow the Tories to do. I think the European referendum that they’re now insisting on will be really damaging for the country. I think firstly the process leading up to it, but also the referendum itself. And if we leave the European Union, that will hit Cambridge and the whole country really really hard. It will be probably the worst thing that could happen in those five years.
DOTTY MCLEOD: A lot of the things that you’ve just mentioned, the benefit cuts, people will be nodding, and saying you know he’s absolutely right. So why did the LibDem message on this not cut through? Because it was a terrible election for the LibDems nationally.
JULIAN HUPPERT: I think what happened was that we got fairly viciously attacked from both the left and the right. So the right wing press were very heavily saying we might work with Labour. You have to vote Tory. The left were saying we might talk to the Tories, you have to vote Labour. We just got attacked from both sides. We also didn’t get our values across I think. We spoke too much about the specific things that we’d done in government, many of which we were quite right to be proud of. But I don’t think people got a sense of really who we were, what we were trying to achieve at a deep level.
CHRIS MANN: Julian Huppert there, after his defeat in the General Election last week. You can hear more of that interview on the Dotty McLeod Breakfast Show, tomorrow at seven.