Harrogate MP opens up on ‘state on nation’ amid swirling General Election fever

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Harrogate’s MP has told the Harrogate Advertiser he would be very disappointed if he lost his seat in what he said would be a “very difficult” General Election.

But, as rumours of a summer election swirled round Westminster, he said politics was about more than making “big windy statements.”

Speaking as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak weighs up his options for going to the country, Mr Jones said he had done more in his 14 years as Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP than his predecessor, Phil Willis of the Liberal Democrats.

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"I’d be very disappointed to lose but I’m absolutely clear that I have delivered significantly more than my predecessor.

During his 14 years at Westminster, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP has held a series of junior ministerial posts, working under the likes of Justine Greening, Andrew Mitchell and Jeremy Hunt. (Picture contributed)During his 14 years at Westminster, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP has held a series of junior ministerial posts, working under the likes of Justine Greening, Andrew Mitchell and Jeremy Hunt. (Picture contributed)
During his 14 years at Westminster, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP has held a series of junior ministerial posts, working under the likes of Justine Greening, Andrew Mitchell and Jeremy Hunt. (Picture contributed)

"To represent your home area at the highest level is a great privilege and it’s been fantastic.

"But I still have much to do."

Although some political commentators at the national level have detected a further move to the right in government since Rishi Sunak took over in October 2022, Mr Jones said he had been reassured by the Prime Minister’s strategy.

"The last election was dominated by Brexit but this will be a very difficult General Election.

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Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones visiting Harrogate Pumping Marvellous last week; a community group which supports people diagnosed with heart failure. (Picture contributed)Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones visiting Harrogate Pumping Marvellous last week; a community group which supports people diagnosed with heart failure. (Picture contributed)
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones visiting Harrogate Pumping Marvellous last week; a community group which supports people diagnosed with heart failure. (Picture contributed)

"It’s a big call but my guess for an election date would be late autumn.

"Rishi will want to make some more headway on substantive policies, especially on immigration, defence and welfare programmes.

"It’s an uncertain world and I think defence will be far more prominent than before, so I welcome last week’s announcement of an increase in defence spending and support for Ukraine.

"It’s been a very difficult time for the economy but I think with wages rising, inflation falling and the cut in national insurance, this month people will feel the benefit.”

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Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones who has won four elections in a row. (Picture Gerard Binks)Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones who has won four elections in a row. (Picture Gerard Binks)
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones who has won four elections in a row. (Picture Gerard Binks)

An opponent of Brexit and, as Partygate turned into a national scandal, Boris Johnson, too, Andrew Jones is with his Prime Minister in believing the state of the nation is not all gloom and doom, despite the cost of living crisis and a range of challenging figures and situations.

Mr Jones, who has won four election wins in a row since 2010, says he is taking nothing for granted, whenever the General Election happens to be called.

"I have always fought every election very hard and I will be doing exactly the same this time.

"I recognise the Labour Party’s big lead in the polls and the polls showing the Lib Dems will win here.

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"But I will be focusing on my record as having got things done for this constituency.”

The Tory MP, who worked in various sales and marketing roles before becoming an MP, says he is excited by “four wins for our division” in recent months and years.

Setting out why he thinks he deserves to be elected Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP for a fifth time, Mr Jones highlighted:

New rolling stock for Harrogate rail services and the forthcoming new electric bus fleet at Harrogate Bus Company.

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The forthcoming construction of a new campus at Harrogate College.

The current building of two new operating theatres at Harrogate Hospital and huge investment in energy-saving measures and the removal of reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC).

Progress on winning Bathing Water Status for the River Nidd.

As someone who was on the board of Harrogate Convention Centre in the past, Mr Jones says he understands the venue’s importance to Harrogate’s economy and is a big supporter of it.

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This former Harrogate Borough Councillor, is also keen on Harrogate’s input into the North Yorkshire unitary authority becoming stronger through the area committee of Harrogate and Knaresborough county councillors and the creation of a new Harrogate Town Council, if “anyone can work out what it is going to do,” he adds.

On North Yorkshire Council’s controversial £11.2 million Harrogate Gateway project which, originally, was meant to bring an element of pedestrianisation and cycle lanes to the town centre, Mr Jones says he gave a “conditional thumbs-up” to the now ditched first version but, adds, he hasn’t had a formal briefing for the new watered down version and it was “hard to give a proper answer”.

His Lib Dem rival for the seat, Tom Gordon, claims the state of sewage pollution in the Nidd is a reflection not only of 14 years of misgovernment but, also, a lack of clear direction and lack of action by the town’s long-standing Tory MP.

But Mr Jones completely rejects any idea that doesn’t stand up and be counted enough on local issues.

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"If we achieve Bathing Water Status for the Nidd, it will be a big achievement.

"I think it is fair to say, as a country, we have not taken water quality seriously enough.

"We are the first government to take it seriously and back it with cash.

"When the Lib Dems were in the coalition government, they did nothing about it.

"These problems existed when the Lib Dems had an MP here.

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"Phil Willis talked the right game when he was MP but it’s about action.

"Politics is about hard choices and hard work, not big windy statements.”

Happy to admit to be in the mainstream of Tory politics, Andrew Jones says he is not an “extreme voice”.

During his 14 years at Westminster, he has held a series of junior ministerial posts, working under the likes of Justine Greening, Andrew Mitchell and Jeremy Hunt.

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He is a fan of Rishi Sunak and is reluctant to join in the game of being rude about Liz Truss, the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.

"I was a Treasury minister for a time with Liz.

"It was an, er, interesting time.

"Her administration was incredibly short but her views on the importance of productivity and growth were correct.

"But the tactics and delivery were wrong.

"There was clearly a wreckless element to her budget.”