Political Agenda – Wera Hobhouse MP
Wera Hobhouse pauses for a moment when asked for her reflection on the situation in Ukraine.
“It’s frightening”, she says simply.
As MPs grapple with a war that has sent shockwaves through the geopolitical landscape, Hobhouse has experienced a destabilised Europe before.
Born in 1960 in Hanover, Hobhouse recalls celebrating in Berlin on the night that the Berlin Wall came down.
It was the fall of communism in 1989 that compelled Hobhouse to become politically active.
“At the time we saw the big threat of the Soviet Union, communism, marxism, against parliamentary democracy.
“I became part of an organisation that wanted to educate young people my age about our values, our principles and why it was important that parliamentary democracy was ready to defend itself.”
Bath’s MP since 2017, Hobhouse draws parallels with her experience of the Cold War with fears of the situation in eastern Europe today sparking a nuclear war.
“If something had gone wrong, we would have had a nuclear war probably over my hometown of Hanover.
“That threat and that anxiety hung over us as a young generation… it has come back and it’s quite disturbing.”
When the conversation moves to the architect of the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Hobhouse voices the fears many harbour about the unpredictable nature of the Russian leader.
“Putin has shown himself to be incredibly unpredictable… one can not take anything off the table of what Putin might be up to.”
In recent days, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed to Western leaders to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a line which Nato countries have so far been unwilling to cross.
Hobhouse believes the consequences of escalating tensions between the West and Russia would be grave.
“That [no-fly zone] has the potential of really blowing the whole thing up.”
The government has received heavy criticism over its requirements for Ukrainian refugees to enter the country, despite Boris Johnson’s instance the UK’s offer is “incredibly generous”.
Hobhouse dismisses the prime minister’s claims as “nonsense.
“The government has peddled an anti-immigrant, anti-refugee politics for such a long time… it’s shameful”.
A former Conservative, she was elected as a Conservative councillor to Rochdale District Council in Lancashire. However, she later defected to the Liberal Democrats becoming the Liberal Democrat Group leader on the Council.
When asked why she settled on representing the Liberal Democrats, Hobhouse jokes it’s because members of the party “love to argue”.
Hobhouse clarifies: “We can be very independent and have our own opinions within our party without being too harshly whipped and corralled into a certain position.”
As the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for women and equalities, Hobhouse has been a strong voice in advocating for gender equality.
She lists making upskirting a specific criminal offence as her proudest political achievement. Hobhouse is clear the UK has some way to go to tackle misogyny in society.
“I’ve tried for a long time unsuccessfully to make misogyny a hate crime… unless we actually include misogyny into our hate crime legislation, we don’t make the progress that we could eventually make.”
Working on a cross-party basis comes naturally to Hobhouse, who lists Caroline Lucas, Peter Aldous and Maria Miller as colleagues she finds common ground with.
Ultimately though, Hobhouse is adamant politics comes down to one thing: Who has the “better ideas.
“I have a clear optimism that in the end, the better ideas will win… if I didn’t believe that, I’d probably go home.”