By Alex Stevenson
At just 27, Chloe Smith is Britain’s youngest MP. Will she be up to the job of representing Norwich North in parliament?
Her age will inevitably, for at least a short time, define her. She was quick to address concerns about it when politics.co.uk met up with her on the campaign trail earlier this week.
“I’m 27, I’ve never made any bones about that and actually I think one thing I can contribute is to put a little bit of energy back into politics,” she said brightly.
“I think people around here are ready for that. if I can put a bit of fresh energy into it – a fresh face – that’s what I’m going for.”
Smith has certainly been energetic since leaving the comprehensive school in Swaffham, where she is now a governor.
Her political life began after she left school while working for Gillian Shephard. She continued to help out the South West Norfolk MP between her studies at the University of Norfolk, before helping Bernard Jenkin in Westminster.
Since then her working life has been as a business consultant for Deloitte. Her experience there, she argues, has given her experience beyond her years. There’s no doubt she comes across as a professional.
Smith has succeeded in marrying that to her political and other activities. A strong charity strain runs through her, which has seen her participate in an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro (she didn’t make it to the top). Among the work she’s frequently listed in the campaign is organising a petition to save a walk-in centre and fighting for more double-glazing in council homes.
Her opponents in the campaign have argued she is too much of a fresh-faced party devotee, but in a seat where her predecessor was the popular – and extremely independent Ian Gibson – she knows the limits of following the party line.
When asked at a party hustings event on the eve of the by-elections whether, if push came to shove, she would back her party or her constituents, her attempt at explaining her opposition to her party over the dualling of the A11, a major local issue, was challenged by the Green party candidate. Inevitably, she explained, her first priority would be to her constituents.
Smith will not take her seat in the Commons till it returns from the long summer recess in October, giving her just a few months before the next general election. But it is clear she intends to make a splash in the dying days of the 2005 generation.
As she put it: “I don’t want to be just another old white man in parliament!”