Miriam Cates: 'If we don't have people from all walks of life around the table, we won't look at how our policies filter down'

Penistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Photo: Jonathan GawthorpePenistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Penistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Pinned as a rising star, new MP Miriam Cates is already being tipped to climb to the top of the Conservative Party.

Before she was elected, Mrs Cates sat next to Boris Johnson at the party conference last year, and during the winter’s campaigning, she was joined on the doorstep in her Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency by the PM’s fiancee Carrie Symonds.

But despite being seen as a leading light in the party so desperate to keep its hard fought for northern seats, the Cambridge graduate and former schoolteacher has not slipped into the background after winning her seat, making waves both locally and nationally.

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“I think the thing that I'm aiming for is to get a balance,” she said, speaking to The Yorkshire Post six months after the election.

Penistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Photo:Jonathan GawthorpePenistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Photo:Jonathan Gawthorpe
Penistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Photo:Jonathan Gawthorpe

“So, yes, I'm here to represent constituents to deliver on the things that I've campaigned on, levelling up, that is absolutely my priority. But also MPs do have a national role.

“We're here to be legislators, and we have to take that seriously and that isn't necessarily just about focusing on local issues, but it's also about what's best for the country.

“I think finding a balance between those is my short and medium term aim.”

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Mrs Cates, a mother-of-three, has the ambition to make it easier for female MPs like her, who are juggling the job with bringing up children.

And she has not been afraid to call out the dearth of mothers of young children in both Parliament and her own party.

“There aren't many female MPs with school-aged children and young children and it is tough,” she said.

“Being away for a large part of the week, and then trying to actually have meaningful time with them when I am home and not constantly be on my phone and my email.

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“But I want to make this possible because if it isn't possible for mums with young children to be MPs, then we are missing out on a huge section of the population being represented.

“If we don't have people from all walks of life around the tables where decisions are made, we won't look at how those policies filter down to the people that they affect and I think being a mum, being a parent, is such an important role in society, so we should be very careful that our policies promote those people and help those people and help children.”

She said: “I want there to be enough mums in Parliament, going through that experience right now, struggling with childcare, having to help your child with homework, so that we can be a voice.

“If it's not possible to do that, then that's a bad thing for our whole country.”

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And she said it meant she had a “different kind of life experience”.

“I've not been a banker. I've not been a lawyer, but gosh, I know how a school works and how a PTA works and those kinds of things, so it is a valuable life experience,” she said.

“That is one of my ambitions to bring that to the table.”

Mrs Cates, 37, said the first few months in Parliament, and being thrust into a global pandemic, had been “a massive learning curve, there's no doubt about it”.

“And I know quite a lot about politics I suppose compared to the average member of the public because I'm interested in it but even so, there's just been so much to learn so quickly,” she said.

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Starting in politics on her children’s school PTA and then as a parish councillor for Oughtibridge Ward on Bradfield Parish Council, she said she had a thirst to make changes in communities on the ground.

But despite December being the first time she had fought a national election - she stood for Sheffield City Council in 2018 but finished third - Mrs Cates said: “I wasn't surprised to win.”

She said: “I think very early in the campaign, we were knocking on doors every day and it became clear that the mood had very definitely shifted away from Labour, and that we were holding our vote from 2017 and it was growing.”

And aside from the much talked about issues of Brexit - Penistone and Stocksbridge voted to leave the EU but former MP Angela Smith had joined the Lib Dems and campaigned to revoke Article 50 - and a dislike for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mrs Cates said: “Also, there is this feeling of - perhaps it's been overused - but this feeling of being left behind.

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“That actually people in our communities do have ambitions for themselves and do have ambitions for their family, but they feel like those in authority don't have those ambitions for them and don't share those ambitions, particularly in areas that have been Labour dominated for decades, people felt like they were being taken for granted, particularly by local authorities - that was amazing how much discontent with the local authorities came up, even though this was a national election, and felt like they'd been ignored.”

She added: “I was the first person to have knocked on their door since they lived there.”

But with the Brexit Party fielding candidate John Booker - who got 4,300 votes - she said some voters had also turned away from the Tories too.

Mrs Cates, who previously backed remain but said during the election campaign she had changed her mind and now backed leave, said: “That again was interesting, talking to people about why they would potentially vote for the Brexit Party rather than the Conservatives, when the Brexit Party didn't realistically have a chance of delivering anything.

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“I think for some of those people, there was just such a dissatisfaction with politics as they knew it, with the status quo, with the establishment. I really, really felt for those people because they really had reached the end of the road, some of them, with trusting governments and authorities.

“I think that we've got a job to rebuild that, but hopefully delivering Brexit is at least a first step along that road.”

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