Ipswich MP a fan chases a Rumour!

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

IT'S been a frantic six weeks for Chris Mole.

He's got a new job as MP for Ipswich and is quickly having to learn the ropes at Westminster.

That's quite a turnaround for someone who wasn't interested in politics as a youngster – and who was telling the world he wasn't interested in the House of Commons just 20 months ago.

IT'S been a frantic six weeks for Chris Mole.

He's got a new job as MP for Ipswich and is quickly having to learn the ropes at Westminster.

That's quite a turnaround for someone who wasn't interested in politics as a youngster – and who was telling the world he wasn't interested in the House of Commons just 20 months ago.

Politics is a world where rumours and gossip thrive – but at university in the 1970s, Mr Mole was interested in a very different kind of Rumour!

"I was a fan of Graham Parker and the Rumour," he said – showing he was someone who took the New Wave explosion of the mid-70s very seriously.

Mr Mole was a student at the University of Kent – one of Britain's "new universities" which had a reputation for radical politics in the 1970s.

"When I was at university I wasn't interested in the politics – there were a group of us who were able to wire up electrics and we used to set up bands who were playing there.

"The Jam came twice," he remembered fondly. "The first time was when they were unknowns – the second time was just as 'Going Underground' was released and they were in a big hall," he said.

I was at another university at the same time Mr Mole was at Kent – and we were soon swapping bands which our student unions had booked.

We quickly established that we had both been fans of Ian Dury and the Blockheads – although resisted the temptation of bursting into a chorus of "Hit me with your Rhythm Stick!"

We met over coffee in the comfortable surroundings of Ipswich's Great White Horse Hotel – a building that holds fond memories for Mr Mole.

"I met Shona (his wife) here," he said.

"There was a group of us from BT who met here regularly during the early 80s – it was a Greene King pub and we liked their beer," he said.


"Shona was part of that group, we met – and the rest is history!"

His wife still works for BT, but they have never actually worked together.

They had been together for several years before they decided to make it official in 1996 and became the first couple to get married in the new Register Office in Rope Walk, Ipswich.

Mr Mole was born and brought up in Bromley. "When I was a child it was in Kent, now Bromley is a borough in south east London," he said.

His father ran the family shop in Hackney but the family had moved to the new suburb of Bromley before Mr Mole was born.

He went to primary school in Bromley before the local council paid for him to go to Dulwich College, one of Britain's top independent schools.

After leaving university he went to work for electronics firm, Plessey, in Northampton. "But I didn't really like Northampton and started looking around again," he said.

A tutor from university had contacts with British Telecom at Martlesham Heath – and that brought Mr Mole to Ipswich in February 1981.

It wasn't until the general election campaign two years later that Mr Mole became interested in politics and he soon got the taste for political office.

"A friend of mine at BT was married to a Labour

councillor, and persuaded me to get involved in the 1983 general election campaign.

"I found I liked the people in the Labour campaign, joined the party and decided to get more heavily involved," he said.

Mr Mole was elected to the county council in 1985, became Labour group leader in 1990, and was leader of the council from 1993 until his election to parliament.

But he found his work as council leader was taking up more and more of his time, so he left BT in 1998 - six months later he became deputy chairman of EEDA (East of England Development Agency).

It was his time there that persuaded him to seek election to the House of Commons.

When I interviewed him as Suffolk County Council leader in May 2000, moving to Westminster was the last thing on his mind.

"As a backbench MP you really don't have anywhere near as much effect on people's lives as you do at the head of a council like this," he told me then.

"My view really changed because of my role with EEDA. I was working with government ministers and people from Westminster and saw the way they worked and felt I could do a job there."

And his ambition is not limited to his current role as a backbench MP.

"At the moment I am very new and learning my way around. It is quite daunting coming to terms with all the paperwork I receive and sifting out what's important and what's not.

"But I'm sure I will come to terms with that. If I feel comfortable in the role of MP for Ipswich, I may want to work on a wider canvass," he said.

He confirmed that this meant he could be looking for ministerial office once he felt comfortable in the Westminster environment.

"For the time being I have to work hard to establish myself as MP for the town – I know how hard Jamie Cann worked and how many people he helped. It will not be easy to follow in his footsteps," he said.

As council leader, he was used to getting things done and he accepts that his new role is rather different.

"There's work to be done in Westminster itself, and in the constituency it involves things like bringing people together and helping to sort out problems," he said.

He arrived in Westminster after a high-profile by-election run by a team of professional, experienced campaigners.

"To some extent I knew I had to put myself into their hands – they knew how to run the campaign and I think we did very well.

"Now they've gone and it's up to me to do my own work. I've got an office sorted out and someone is helping me in Silent Street (the Labour Party offices in Ipswich).

"I've still got to sort out a researcher in Westminster and a flat in London – I may be looking at Camberwell, a lot of MPs seem to live in that area.

"But at the moment all I've got there is a desk, a phone, and a computer terminal in Committee Room 17. The office accommodation in Westminster isn't very good for many MPs," he said.

Mr Mole has been quick to discover the delights of the Commons tearoom, one of the places where MPs gather.

"I've been pleased to see the number of people who've come up and congratulate me and offer me advice," he said. "But Westminster can be a lonely place, especially when you're new."

Mr Mole doesn't expect to be a thorn in the side of the government.

"I don't know what would happen if there was an issue that I felt very strongly that the wrong decision had been reached."

Mr Cann rebelled against the government soon after the general election when it tried to sack two controversial committee chairmen. Would Mr Mole have joined the rebels?

"To be honest, I don't think I would have known enough about Commons procedure at that point," he said.

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