Get to know Simon

Get to know Honiton & Sidmouth's local champion and Conservative parliamentary candidate in this special Q&A!

What was your first job?

My family instilled a strong work ethic in me from an early age, so I got my first job at the age of 14 as a paper boy. I earned £10 a week, which felt like a lot at the time. Little did I know that, in later life, I'd be reporting the news as a journalist, rather than delivering it! Later in my teenage years, I worked in Somerfield as a checkout assistant, where chatting to people while I put their shopping through the till helped bring me out of my shell. Working in retail was a great experience - I couldn’t have been an MP without working on the shop floor.

What did you do before becoming an MP?

My journey to Parliament was not typical of many of my colleagues. I decided not to go to university, instead going straight into the workplace, which has given me ‘real world’ experience. During college I volunteered at a local radio station, making the tea until they let me on air. I’ll always remember being live on air for the first time, and my broadcasting career included working in my home city on Plymouth Sound, South Hams Radio, Radio Plymouth, and Radio Exe. I swapped presenting programmes for journalism in 2010 when I joined the BBC and rose up the ranks to manage the Dorset office for BBC Radio Solent. I‘ve also worked for ITV as a News Editor and was later headhunted to work for a former Foreign Secretary as an adviser. I’ve always worked hard, and I enjoy a variety of challenges, making every day different!

What made you want to be an MP?

My journey to become an MP started when I was working at the BBC in Dorset, when a nurse from the local hospital knocked on the office door. She was clutching some papers, asked for me and then handed them over. They revealed plans by NHS Dorset to cut A&E services, which would have resulted in much longer journeys to other hospitals in the county when every lost minute could cost lives. The story led news bulletins on BBC local radio and television. When the local MP got involved and helped put a stop to the plans, I realised what an effective MP could do and started to explore the possibility of standing for Parliament. I will always fight to protect our community hospitals in Seaton, Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Honiton & Axminster.

What are your achievements so far as an MP?

When I take on a cause, I don’t give up until I succeed, and I want to be able to continue standing up for where we live. It wasn’t long after the general election in 2019 that many countries across the world locked down in response to Covid-19. Shortly before the first lockdown, Flybe collapsed with hundreds of jobs lost. Most flights from Exeter Airport were operated by Flybe, leaving our local airport devastated and facing financial disaster. I successfully campaigned for business rates relief for smaller airports, providing Exeter Airport with a lifeline at a very difficult time. Meanwhile, I picked up the baton from my predecessor to secure a new school to replace flood-prone Tipton St John Primary. The new school will be built without the need for new houses to pay for it. I was also aware of the need to improve traffic flow along the A376 with the long-awaited Dinan Way extension, and working with Devon County Council, we secured the multi-million-pound funding from the government to get the road finally built. More recently, whilst working in the Department for Transport, I worked hard with local councillors to secure a new railway station for Cullompton using the money saved from HS2. In the last few weeks, following a persistent campaign, NHS Devon gave Hospiscare nearly half-a-million pounds in response to my call for fairer funding. I know we need a secure future for Seaton Hospital, a relief road for Cullompton and a safe walking route between Sidford and Sidbury.

What do you do to relax?

I don’t have much time to relax but I really enjoy our many beautiful walks in the countryside, especially if a pub happens to serve decent cider or real ale along the route. I also love music, and although I can’t play a single note, I enjoy listening to a wide and quite random range of music. Country music is a passion, alongside Motown and Folk. I’ve always enjoyed the Sidmouth Folk Festival, it’s my favourite event in the Sidmouth calendar.

What makes you laugh?

I enjoy watching classic comedies including Blackadder, Only Fools & Horses, and Yes Minister. When I worked as an adviser in the Foreign Office, I worked with a brilliant civil servant called Mr. Appleby, which always made me chuckle as my favourite character in Yes Minister is Sir Humphrey Appleby. The best laughter is shared with family and friends, and although they usually groan at my jokes, I enjoy raising a smile or two.

Lastly, tell us something interesting about yourself that not many people are likely to know?

Whilst working at the BBC, I was asked to dress up as a Pudsey the Bear because apparently, I’m quite animated. I remember letting my parents know that I’d be on TV that night in disguise, and they found it very funny when I had to attempt to dance in a fiendishly complicated costume. Thankfully, no recordings exist!