Interview: Greg Hands spoke to a Conservative candidate in west London cruising cheerfully to what is expected to be a win.

By Marina Kim

“Who is Greg Hands?” asked a friend of mine who lives just a street away from his office.

“Your local candidate for the Conservatives..” I said as I was heading to interview Hands.

“Never heard of him. There were no leaflets through my door, and nobody spoke to me to encourage voting for him either.”

As I walked in Hands’ office in Chelsea Manor Street, I understood why. It was the quietest of all prospective MPs’ offices that I’ve been to so far. A few women were typing something on computers but there was no rush and the running around that I’d witnessed elsewhere.

Well, after all it’s Chelsea and Fulham. People vote Conservative here almost automatically. There are probably other seats where leafleting resources are more needed.

Hands acknowledged the recent rise in popularity of the Liberal Democrats. But he insisted there were huge black holes in their financing plans. He said if you added up all of the Lib Dems’ policies they would not only tackle but add to the deficit by about 900 million pounds a year.

“The problem with the LibDems is that their manifesto pledges don’t add up. There are some really amateur examples of double counting.”

Asked about the similarities between the economic policies of the three main parties, Hands was keener to talk about the differences.

“The differences are quite stark. The Conservatives are the only party with a comprehensive plan to deal with the deficit and to remove the bulk of structural deficit within four years and to start right away.

“As you know at the moment the government is borrowing around 500 million pounds a day. For every four pounds the government is spending, one of those four pounds is borrowed. That’s not going to be sustainable.”

With the Lib Dems high in the polls, a hung parliament and electoral reform is now a real issue. Hands doesn’t exclude the idea of a reform as such but is sceptical about what the proposals could be.

“I am very much in favour of transparency. There are very few MPs more transparent than I am. I publish all my expenses on my website; I send a weekly bulletin and so on.

“As for a parliamentary reform, it depends on what kind of reform they are going to suggest. I am strongly opposed to all forms of proportional representation. I wouldn’t call that a reform. I would call that a retrograde step.

“If you ask anybody has it been a great reform to move to the way that members of the European parliament are elected, they would say no. People have no idea who their MEPs are. It is all decided by other parties based on the list based system. It is extremely undemocratic,” he said.

Hands was first inspired to go into politics by what he witnessed in West Berlin where he lived in the 1980s. There he was actively involved in human rights groups which gradually brought him into electoral politics.

“I found the ability of people in Central and Eastern Europe to throw off their oppressors very inspirational. If I have to choose one politician, it would be Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York. His ability to transform the city for the better is very impressive.”

Hands said the Lib Dems’ charm would fade. But he refused to speculate on the outcome: “I don’t think anyone can make a judgement of what is going to happen until May 6th.”