‘I will fight every battle for Island’ – MP Bob Seely
Bob Seely admits he has finally fulfilled a long-term ambition by becoming the new Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight. Descended from a family involved in politics, business, and soldiering, Bob is the sixth member of his paternal family to become an MP, the second for the Isle of Wight, and the third to contest the Island since the mid-19th century.
Having lived in Chillerton for the past six years, and having been an Isle of Wight Councillor for nearly as long, he succeeded Andrew Turner as Conservative candidate, and won the constituency at the recent General Election with 38,190 votes, increasing the Conservative vote share by 11per cent.
Now the 51-year-old is eager to make his voice heard in the House of Commons as he begins the huge task of implementing changes he feels will improve many aspects of the Island. But he also believes this largest constituency in the whole of the UK would be better served in Parliament if it had a second MP.
Born in London, he said: “A lot of my family have lived on the Island and in Nottinghamshire, and from a very early age we came here as a family on holiday up to three times a year. Some of my earliest memories were the sound of crickets on a hot day in the walls at Bonchurch, and walking down a steep path to the beach, to the smell of the seaweed. I fell in love with the Island when I was very young. I always wanted to be on the Island, my heart has always been here.”
He unsuccessfully fought the Broxtowe Parliamentary seat in 2005, but says: “I remember thinking to myself it would be lovely to be an MP, but this would not have been for the Island. So I decided if it wasn’t going to be on the Island, I didn’t want to be an MP somewhere else. I wanted to come here and live happily, working as a Councillor.”
Andrew Turner’s decision not to seek re-election opened the door for the former Times journalist and Military man, and he revealed: “I have a very ambitious agenda for the Island, as do the Chamber of Commerce, Visit Isle of Wight and the IW Council. So we all need to take the Island forward.
“Property developers building houses for speculative purposes is not a future for the Island. We don’t want big housing estates on green field sites; we need small scale sensitive to the environment and local needs. We need to make sure we build houses at affordable rates, for Islanders and especially for young Islanders. At present our biggest export is our talented and brilliant young people, who have no choice but to go to the mainland for their future. We have to turn that around. “We need the Island to be the best place to grow up, have a family, start a business and grow old. We need to work together to make sure the Island is a national leader in ensuring quality of life for those in later life.
“We need to develop better education; provide opportunities to keep young people here, and make some move towards high education here. We need to get another museum or art gallery, more cycle routes, improve railways to ensure the future of Island Line. We need to think of our future. I can’t guarantee I will win every battle, but I will fight every battle.”
From 2008, Bob was a full time reservist in the UK Armed Forces, serving in Irac, and Afghanistan. He added: “This is the biggest constituency in the country, and I love the idea of representing everyone here. But we are double the size of a lot of Scottish seats, and in one case you could fit four Scottish constituencies into the Isle of Wight.
“It is wonderful to speak for the whole Island, but I wonder if it is good for the Island to be so under-represented. I would like two MPs pushing the Island agenda, rather than just one, and if I get the Isle of Wight Bill through Parliament, I will try to secure a second seat. That will be my recommendation to the Boundaries Commission whatever else happens in the UK. I would rather the Isle of Wight being over-represented than under-represented.
“But if I have to battle for the whole of the Island I will willingly do that – don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful to do it, but it is better for our community if we have two MPs, then we will have twice the voice and twice the impact, although some people might disagree.”
Bob’s great-great-uncle, General Jack Seely, was MP for the Isle of Wight between 1900 and 1906 and again between 1923 and 1924. In between he served in the First World War, including leading the Battle of Moreuil Wood on his war horse Warrior – the inspirsation for the film and stage production, War Horse.