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Stone’s Scoop: Giles Watling – Jamie Stone speaks to the Clacton MP about life outside politics

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Dear Reader, Years ago, in a previous incarnation, I used to sit down with well-known people in the Highlands and talk with them about their backgrounds, interests, hobbies, and so on.

I’ve decided to reignite this interview series, this time with the faces I’ve come to know over my time in Westminster and Holyrood.

Have you ever wondered what a Conservative from a seaside town in England gets up to in their spare time, or what a Labour leader’s favourite ice cream flavour is? So have I.

With no further ado, I introduce my first guest…

Giles Watling, MP for Clacton.
Giles Watling, MP for Clacton.

Giles Watling, MP for Clacton

Favourite Ice Cream Scoop: Magnum Classic

Giles has been an MP since 2017. Before entering politics, he was an actor. You may have seen him in TV series Gideon’s Way or Bread, or indeed the film The Human Factor.

Do you think your acting experience helps you in the Chamber of the House of Commons?

It must to a certain extent. As far as one is used to standing up in front of people and saying words. But the big difference is for the first time in my life I find I’m saying my own words (largely) and I no longer have a character to hide behind. So if I get it wrong, it is my fault.

And do you memorise your speeches, do you learn them like lines?

No, I don’t. I did attempt that at one point and I thought, “This is not good”. I would sort of perform them like I was playing [King] Lear.

What I do is, I or my long-suffering staff write these perfectly good speeches and I never say them. I work my way from this bullet point to that bullet point and work my way through it like that.

I used to have a fear of interventions. As an actor, you don’t get people intervening, with any luck. But actually, it’s not a problem and I regard them, largely, as helpful.

You’re very interesting in the way that you relate to MPs from other parties…

I’m Conservative by nature but, as you know, our party is extraordinarily wide. It is a broad church with the far right and the far left of the party, or rather the more centrist part of the party, in which box I tend to put myself.

But the vast majority of people here are doing this because they believe in it. They’re doing it not for the money – because a lot of them could earn far more in the commercial world. It is a vocation.

No matter what their political beliefs are, they’re here because their hearts are in it. It’s a few rotten apples that spoil it, but if you’re going to get 650 people, you’re going to have a few rotten apples along the way.

But I don’t think that they – and I put myself outside of the equation here – I don’t think they get the respect they deserve.

Clacton is a holiday destination in Essex, with its own pier and other attractions.
Clacton is a holiday destination in Essex, with its own pier and other attractions.

What is it like to represent Clacton, a popular holiday destination?

In Clacton itself, we have a pier and we have a pavilion, and we’ve got two big wheels. It’s undergoing a great revival right now. It’s leaving some of its slightly tawdry past behind and it's being upgraded.

In the last few years, it’s managed to attract some 78 million into the town, all with Levelling Up money. The Prime Minister himself came down a few weeks ago to have a look at where we’re spending the money.

We’ve got 36 miles of incredible coastline, and we’ve got a site of special scientific interest which is the Walton Backwaters, where the water is often many degrees higher than it is off the southern coast, so there’s a Mediterranean feel to it all.

And where have you liked to travel to over the years?

Messing about in boats has been a big part of my life, all my life. In the old days when I was an actor and I had a script to learn, I would sometimes go and drop the anchor on my boat and just sit and study it. I also take it out to sea and travel quite long distances, I go to Ostend in Belgium.

I did an enormous amount of travelling during my acting years. I knew the country well, although sadly north of Inverness there isn’t that much. I did Eden Court, and performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I have far too many books for my house. I play guitar. I like loafing around my cricket club. I have been a writer in my past.

My father taught me to play chess. All our lives we would play chess and we used to keep a score on the back of this door in my father’s house of who was winning. Sadly, when he died we were halfway through a game – it was his move.

Jamie Stone speaks to fellow politicians about life beyond the Chamber.
Jamie Stone speaks to fellow politicians about life beyond the Chamber.
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