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Dan Byles MP answers ConHome's Twenty Questions for the Class of 2010

Here is the latest in our series of Twenty Questions with members of the Class of 2010...

Dan Byles Commons Dan Byles was elected MP for North Warwickshire with a majority of 54.

1. What is your earliest political memory? The Falklands War. I don't remember taking in much detail at the time, but I remember seeing it on the news and seeing Margaret Thatcher and knowing that she was our leader. I had the good fortune to meet Margaret Thatcher for the first time earlier this year and managed to have a few words with her. Most people before me had queued up to take it in turns to tell her how inspirational she was and how honoured they were to meet her. Rather than repeat the same sentiment once again, I simply told her that I was brought up as a school child in the 1980s, and that for years I didn't think it was possible to have a Prime Minister who wasn't Margaret Thatcher. She roared with laughter.

2. Complete the sentence: “I’m a Conservative because… I believe in freedom with responsibility. I believe in low tax free market economics tempered by sensible and thrifty government. I believe in justice and the rule of law. I believe in walking softly and carrying a big stick. I believe in trusting families and communities. I believe in choice, aspiration and opportunity for all. I believe in simplicity and common sense in government. I believe in democracy. And I believe that Britain is and has been a force for good in the world. I am proud of my country and proud to be a Conservative."

3. Who is your political hero and why? Boris Johnson, because he is unspun, and says what he thinks. With Boris, what you see is what you get. That is how politics should be, but sadly the way the media coverage of politics has evolved in recent years allows so few top politicians to actually be themselves like he can.

4. When did you decide you wanted to become an MP? I felt I had no choice after becoming very disillusioned with politics and politicians when I served as a Staff Officer in the Ministry of Defence during the Iraq invason. I initially supported the invasion, because the Prime Minister at the time stood before the nation and effectively said "If you knew what I know, you would understand why we must do this". I took him at his word. When it became clear Tony Blair knew no more than the rest of us, but was willing to commit British troops to war regardless, I lost faith and decided that I should leave the Army to stand for election..

5. What is your reading material of choice? I love to read books, but I have so little time. I love to relax with the Sunday papers but I rarely have the opportunity. In practice, most of my reading is now done online and is mostly news and politics (sadly!). I try to read ConservativeHome and politicalbetting.com every day. I also try to read the daily Dilbert strip every day to remind myself of how absurd life can be.

6. Who is your favourite political interviewer/presenter on TV or radio? Eddie Mair on Radio 4's PM. He is always so calm and friendly sounding, and yet often cuts through the nonsense with a really incisive question that looks like a gentle underarm but is actually a vicious googly.

7. If you could run any government department, which would it be and why? There is so much to do that this is actually quite a difficult question. Defence is obviously a department where I feel I could make a serious contribution, but having been an Army officer for nine years that probably rules me out on the grounds that I would know too much! Energy also interests me, because I am genuinely concerned about UK energy security. But at the end of the day, who wouldn't want to be Chancellor of the Exchequer (mmm... does having studied economics at university rule me out of that one too?)?

8. Which non-Conservative politician do you most admire? Mo Mowlam.

9. Who would you least want to get stuck with in a House of Commons lift? A group of more than two others. They are very small lifts.

10. If you were in the US, would you be a Republican or a Democrat? Republican.

11. What do you enjoy doing to unwind and relax? Currently struggling to remember what relaxing feels like, but when I can I enjoy reading, writing, cooking, and spending some rare quiet time with my wife.

12. What is your favourite book? Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Anything by Terry Pratchett.

13. What is your favourite film? Withnail and I.

14. What is your favourite music? I listen to a wide variety of music, but my heart is pretty much stuck in the 80s and early 90s. Songs from my time at school and university.

15. What would be your ideal meal and where would you eat it? To have the time to cook something nice myself, and to have a small group of our closest friends around to enjoy it at our house with some good wine late into the evening.

16. What is your favourite holiday destination?  I love tropical beaches with good scuba diving and good food. I love South East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore). The food is fantastic and the people are so friendly.

17. What do you most want to achieve during your first term in Parliament? I want to learn to be an effective backbench MP, while not getting assimilated by the Westminster machine. I can see how easy it must be to be become institutionalised by the place.

18. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about yourself. I share two entries in the Guinness Book of World Records with my mother [for rowing across the Atlantic in 101 days in a 23-foot wooden rowing boat and for walking and skiing 350 miles from Resolute, Nunavut to the Magnetic North Pole in 20 days and 5 hours].

19. Tell us one interesting, unusual or surprising fact about your constituency. The annual Atherstone Ball Game dates back some 900 years and on average hospitalises about two people every year.

20. Share with us your most amusing story or favourite anecdote from the campaign trail. I owe my selection as PPC three years ago to a cat called Tia. The selection panel were looking through applicants' CVs to choose the initial shortlist. They put them into four piles on the floor as they discussed them: Yes; No; Maybe; and my CV was in a pile all of its own as the 'wildcard'. I didn't meet the criteria they were looking for - someone experienced who had fought a seat before and could hit the ground running. But my CV was interesting enough that they felt they wanted to meet me. Tia the cat strolled over to my CV and sat on it. They shooed her away and moved me to another part of the floor. Tia followed and sat on my CV again. When this happened a third time, it was decided that Tia had voted for me and so they threw me into the shortlist. I went on to be selected and to win the seat for the Conservatives for the first time since 1987.

> Previously: Nigel Adams MP


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