BARRIE HUDSON chats to Justin Tomlinson, standing for the Conservatives in North Swindon, in our series on all the candidates in the General Election on May 7.

“I GENUINELY enjoy the role,” says Justin Tomlinson of his work as a constituency MP.

“There are too many politicians who feel they are doing a favour to their residents, or they’re only interested in serving their own party and will roll out the pre-scripted lines.

“I genuinely enjoy representing my own town. I made it very clear to my party that I would only stand in Swindon, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed thoroughly for five years and would like to carry on.”

Justin, 38, lives in Taw Hill. In 2012 he married Jo, a petcare company owner. The animal lovers share their home with a dog and two cats.

The future MP grew up in Kidderminster in the Midlands, one of five siblings who include acclaimed jazz saxophonist Jim Tomlinson.

His father, Paul, who died when Justin was 12, was a teacher who set up small businesses with Justin’s mother, Vera. Vera later retired to Swindon and is a councillor for the St Andrews ward.

Justin had made the town his home in 1999, after studying business at Oxford Brookes University. He set up a printing and marketing company which he sold on being elected to Parliament, so as to focus wholly on his new job.

“I genuinely think it is a full-time role now,” he said. “You have so many requests for visits, meetings, speaking opportunities, plus dealing with casework, and by concentrating on this role I was very proud to have been voted third most helpful MP in Parliament out of 650 on casework last year.”

Justin, his brothers and sister were encouraged to be engaged in the political process, but Justin also credits a school election with helping to nudge him into his current role.

“I went to a state school – bottom of the league tables – in Worcestershire. I remember phoning them to say I’d been elected to Parliament, and they said the only other person who had made it into the national news had gone to prison, but as I was an MP they weren’t sure which was worse...”

In 1992 he volunteered as Conservative candidate in a school mock election and won two votes, one of which was his own. It taught him that he enjoyed campaigning, that he needed to be better at it – and that he should be careful about pledges. He’d promised a school mate friendship for life in exchange for his vote, and the school mate came to collect. We’re still friends to this day.”

At university, Justin joined the Conservative students’ group.

“I chose the Conservative Party because we support those who work hard and play by the rules, but crucially – and this comes from me going to a school at the bottom of the league tables – I chose the Conservatives because they do the most to provide opportunities for anybody from any background who is prepared to work hard to go and succeed in life.”

Although an avowed Conservative, he didn’t consider seeking office until much later – and it all began with an errant hedge.

“I moved to Swindon and I complained about an overgrown hedge at the end of my road. I raised this with my then councillor, Nick Martin, who said to me, ‘Well, why don’t you come and do something about it?’

“So the next thing I knew, I was the Conservative candidate for the newly-built Abbey Meads ward in the Northern Sector. I was elected in 2000 and it really progressed from there. I’m very proud that I have a lot of support from people who wouldn’t necessarily be natural Conservatives, but are voting for me as an individual.

“I am passionate about promoting our town.

“Win or lose, I will still be living in Swindon. I’m proud that I’ve raised over £100,000 for local charities and organisations, using a fair amount of cheek, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get in life.”

Justin prides himself on serving constituents and on the performance of his party. He cites 8,100 new jobs, a 60 percent fall in unemployment, £140m in local infrastructure funding, the Regent Circus redevelopment, two new secondary schools, 5,345 new businesses and the University Technical College.

“We have seen Swindon restored as an economic powerhouse,” he said. “Swindon really is a town on the up.”

Also standing in North Swindon are: Mark Dempsey (Labour); Janet Ellard (Liberal Democrat); James Faulkner (UKIP); Poppy Hebden-Leeder (Green Party).