Scott Mann interview: 'I admire MPs who are willing to stick themselves on the line'

He was the down-to earth postman who was held up as a poster boy for David Cameron's blue-collar Conservative revival. But despite swapping the streets of Wadebridge for the corridors of power, Scott Mann tells Kate Langston that his ambition remains to provide a strong voice in Westminster for a deeply rural constituency.

North Cornwall MP Scott Mann

In the run up to the 2015 general election, the North Cornwall MP became widely known as the “Poldark look-a-like” who had diligently delivered his rival's campaign leaflets. Two years later, he claims the Poldark association “seems to have stuck”, but he spends more time delivering speeches in the Commons than popping postcards through doors.

Reflecting back on his first big address in that hallowed chamber – the crucial Maiden speech – he recounts the tale to the Yorkshire Post with an embarrassed grin.

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He had been given five hours notice by the party Whips, and spent the time nervously waiting on the renowned green benches as the five hours came... and went. After a while, one of the Whips approached an increasingly apprehensive Mann to offer him “ some good news and some bad news”.

“He said 'the good news is you're going to be up in three speakers time',” the MP recollects. “'The bad news is, you're following Boris Johnson. Good luck'.”

“If the adrenaline wasn't coursing through my body enough before that point, it certainly was then.”

In the end he did not need the luck, paying the customary respect to his predecessors while managing to secure a few laughs with a reference to David Cameron's “six pack” of Cornish MPs. But Mann claims his tendency to “get a bit shouty” while speaking in the House is something he is still working on.

There have been plenty of other lessons for the 39-year-old since entering Parliament - not all of them political.

Last year, Mann had a scare when a boating trip with fellow Westcountry MP Johnny Mercer nearly ended with him drowning because he was too embarrassed to admit he could not swim. He subsequently decided to take up swimming lessons and to use the incident raise awareness of the challenges faced by other adults in a similar position.

“I know I took a little bit of embarrassment for that, but I'm hoping I raised the profile of people that aren't able to swim because there are a lot of adults out there who cant,” he says.

“It only takes one slip near a pier... we saw two or three tragic deaths in Cornwall and Devon last year with people who drowned.

“I was taught breast stroke, and I wouldn't say I was a confident swimmer, but I'm now at a point where I wouldn't be in any trouble if I went swimming again.”

When he spoke to this paper ahead of June's snap election, Mann had been in training for the London marathon. He says running is one of the main ways he unwinds at the end of a long day in Westminster - but another big passion of his is fishing.

He laments that a busy schedule now means he rarely gets out on the river. However, this does not stop him championing the issue in the Commons. He is a member of the all party Parliamentary group on angling, and as a Leave campaigner, Mann says he is keen to see “a British fisheries policy and a British agricultural policy that works for us”.

The former local councillor admits he did not get interested in politics until his late 20s, when he went to hear the then-Conservative Party leader David Cameron give a speech in Brighton.

At the time, he was struggling to get on the housing ladder – at one point competing alongside 200 other aspiring homeowners for the same shared ownership property – and was won over by the message that this was a party dedicated to helping people “that were trying to get on”.

He promptly tracked down his local Conservative party HQ to become “the youngest Conservative party member in North Cornwall by about 30years”. “I won three elections at local authority level, beat one of David Cameron's A-listers in a selection locally,” he says, “and the rest is history”.

As one of Cameron's celebrated 2015 intake of MPs, Mann was held up of a prime example of the party's move away from its traditional upper and middle class roots toward becoming “the party of the working people”. This saw him a high-profile in the 2015 party conference, appearing alongside Samantha Cameron during her husbands big speech.

His working class background has drawn “one or two snide comments” from colleagues, but he claims he has otherwise encountered little prejudice or snobbery. “I'm a grown man, I can take that kind of stuff [and] compared with some of the banter we used to have at the royal Mail its nothing,” he adds.

Asked to name his political inspirations, he expresses admiration for all MPs – regardless of their party - who are willing to “stick themselves on the line” for their beliefs. Examples include fellow Tory MPs who were willing to defy Prime Minister Cameron in order to back Brexit, and the Labour MP Hilary Benn for his speech on military intervention in Syria.

“Whether I agree with them or not, I admire that they can sometimes stare down the Whips and say 'this is an issue that I care about, and its not one that I am going to budge my position on',” he says. “For [Benn] to get up and speak like that... was one of the most influential political moments of this Parliament.”

Following the 2017 election, Mann was appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for Transport. He is involved in supporting the work of ministers John Hayes, Jesse Norman and Paul Maynard, whose portfolios cover roads, aerospace, aviation, and HS2.

He describes the role as an “honour”, adding that transport is a “big issue” in North Cornwall and the whole county “because of how rural we are”.

“The DfT is a great department to work with and the Secretary of State Chris Grayling and his ministers are very passionate about maintaining and building new infrastructure which allows growth and boosts our economy,” he said.

“HS2 is one of the biggest infrastructure projects this country has seen and it will be a great boost for Yorkshire, the North of England and the Midlands.”