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Marcus quo vadis

Henry Hopwood-Phillips interviews the only politician in Parliament who can

refer to the Westminster village without having to apologise about bubbles

he next General Election promises to be an

interesting one. Commentators are already
debating whether we are soon to witness the dawn
of a post-liberal age whether 2015 will be the year the
post-war consensus begins to unravel. Looking at the CV
of Belgravias Member of Parliament Mark Field, one might
be forgiven for thinking that he is a dinosaur of the Blairite
mould. Having worked for Lord Patten, done time as a
corporate lawyer for Freshfields and entered politics when
the Labour leader dominated the discourse, I try to divine
how far Mark has wafted off into the dark arts of mediatraining, career-worship and mindless Third Wayism.
The reality is hes pleasantly straight-talking,
however, and can push a coherent world view on a crowd
in a way many at the Palace of Westminster cant. I think
colleagues have lost faith in the fact that people believe in
liberalism. This cuts them off, making them dissimulate
and seem a little shamefaced I guess, Mark ponders. Its
something he refuses to do.
I put it to him that
his contemporaries may be
on to something and that
liberalism is, at the very least,
changing its spots. Yes, the
rules of capitalism do seem to
be shifting. Professionals in
particular are beginning to feel
the pressure; their role in the economy may be changing,
Mark admits. He also acknowledges the fact that the old
sums dont add up to what they used to and this feeds a
sense of injustice that lends UKIP a lease of life.
Talking of sums, some of the Conservative Partys
dont seem to be adding up either. Mark does not deny that
the coalition has made only 40 per cent of promised cuts,
that the UK government will borrow 100bn this year, or
that the structural deficit is still wobbling around the 2030bn mark, and is frank that the reasons are twofold. First,
there is a lack of political will and second, perhaps more
importantly, part of the tardiness is in order to keep the
music playing but ultimately we must have something to
show to the markets to keep the show on the road.
The situation reminds me of the 1930s when we
featherbedded industry for the sake of social cohesion
but ended up hobbling ourselves in the long run, Mark
continues. His hawkish stance on the deficit and the debt
is a passionate one, mainly because he feels anger on
this situation is bleeding into the wrong places. A good
example is that of immigration, an issue inextricably
linked to sovereignty and therefore the EU. The MP
pushes the fact that freedom of movement and a needs-

based welfare state are incompatible and that its not

the former that should be shafted but the latter. He is
confident that a contribution-based welfare state would
definitely take a lot of heat out of these debates.
Marks enthusiasm for the EU is tempered by a
respect for democracy that not all Europhiles share.
I was one of the 81 rebels, he reminds me, referring
to the 2011 vote for a referendum, which was double
the size of the largest previous Tory rebellion over
Europe (Maastricht) in 1993. Not that he thinks it will
all be plain sailing into a supra-national state, in the
transitional period he believes a points-based immigration
system is a necessity, as well as strong armed forces.
This sits awkwardly with government policy which
has made cuts steep enough to prompt former US defense
secretary Robert Gates to dismiss Britain as no longer a
major military partner. Mark admits he isnt comfortable:
We cannot sleepwalk into being Holland, a country with
no effective army, in 20 years
time. Perhaps it might be fine if
that was what people wanted,
but at the moment no honest
conversation is being had.
He should know what he is
talking about. Mark is a member
of the Intelligence and Security
Committee, currently chaired by
Sir Malcolm Rifkind even if he is the youngest (beating
Hazel Blears by almost 10 years). I suggest things arent
as bad as implied because the aid budget is ring-fenced
and contains soft power features. Mark is unconvinced:
People might talk of these soft alternatives but they are
meant to complement hard power, not replace it.
Closer to home, Belgravias MP is happy gadding about
his constituency. Some of my colleagues feel a disconnect
between the views of their constituents and their own, but
Ive never suffered that, he informs me. I think Belgravia is
special because its full of history but isnt overwhelmed by
it. Venice may look beautiful, but its only got around 52,000
people in it and feels a bit like a museum.
Its hardly a scales-from-Sauls-eyes moment but, far
from being the autocue monster with all the personality
of a small-talk murderer, I had half-expected, cricketloving Mark represents a small crop of MPs with the
brains, the vision and personality to operate at the
highest order of government. We disagree on many issues
but Belgravia is undoubtedly fortunate to count him as
its agent in the Commons.

I think Belgravia is special

because its full of history but
isnt overwhelmed by it


Illustration / Russ Tudor