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Tracey Crouch interview: I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a minister

12 November 2015

9:28 AM

12 November 2015

9:28 AM

Usually when the Prime Minister offers a backbencher their first ministerial post, they trip over their shoelaces in the rush to accept. Not so Tracey Crouch. Even though she had been waiting for five years to be promoted – having previously been considered too rebellious – and even though she had always wanted to be Sports Minister, she hesitated when the call finally came after the General Election to offer her just that. Instead of accepting at once, she told the Prime Minister she wasn’t sure.

The reason she gave David Cameron was one many women shy away from when discussing their careers. ‘I said I wasn’t sure because I wanted to start a family and I said it so very honestly. I said to him I’m 40, I want to start a family, that I’d had a miscarriage during the election and it had changed my priorities on life in general.’ Her boss understood at once. Now the Sports Minister is pregnant, and her baby boy is due in February: something the Prime Minister was ‘delighted’ to hear about. Crouch will be the first Tory minister ever to go on maternity leave, and she will also be the first minister ever to use the shared parental leave arrangements introduced by the Coalition government, as she and her partner Steve, who works in local radio, will share time off.

‘I don’t want to be Supermum,’ she says. ‘I mean, I want to be a super mum, but not Supermum or Wonderwoman. I’ve worked really hard to be a good MP and it will be difficult to completely stop doing constituency work while on maternity leave but at the same time the first few months of a baby’s life are so incredibly precious I will want to spend every moment possible enjoying them.’

Crouch decided to be honest with the Prime Minister after her mid-election miscarriage because ‘it just made me realise really how much I wanted children’. ‘One of the things that I learned actually was how little we talk about miscarriage… I discovered that some of my closest friends had had miscarriages and hadn’t told anybody about it, and it’s, you know, it’s something that they had to cope with by themselves.’

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This chatty, chirpy MP is already renowned for speaking her mind – which is what kept her away from promotion for so long. She puts considerable effort into trying to stay normal, and it shows. She doesn’t talk in soundbites that make no sense like a stereotypical politician, though she is clearly keen to show that she’s not a troublemaker inside government. Until she was a minister, she coached a youth girls’ football team, and she found this stopped her taking herself too seriously because the parents of the girls playing ‘have just taken the mickey out of me’ for things like ‘the fact my skinny legs are too white for my shorts’.

Her upbringing was ‘normal’, too: her parents divorced when she was eight years old, leaving her social worker mother to bring her and her sister up. ‘She struggled to make ends meet in a sort of classic normal way.’

Both girls won places at the local grammar school, and it was when she was forced to take an A level in government and politics that she realised she was a Conservative. ‘I’m your classic kind of accidental politician,’ she says, adding that she was inspired by John Major ‘because I was being told that I wasn’t clever enough to go to university to do Law, and I just thought actually here is a man who had himself been told on many occasions that he wasn’t clever enough or good enough to do anything.’

But given Crouch knows what it means to struggle to make ends meet, isn’t she worried about the cuts to tax credits that will hit families not unlike the one she grew up in? She’s happy to defend these controversial reforms that have agitated so many of her colleagues. ‘I think it’s about communication,’ she says, adding:

‘We will be discussing this, and I’m sure that DWP are looking at all of these issues, in great detail but I think at the end of the day one of the kindest things that we can do is try to help people to support themselves and work around their finances: some of my most heartbreaking cases are those that come to me saying that they are struggling and then you go through with them their expenditure and income – I’m not generalising at all, I’m talking about some very individual cases – and actually they just haven’t realised some of the savings that they need to make themselves, you know it can be… things like paid subscriptions to TVs and you just sit there and you think you have to sometimes go without if you are going to have people make ends meet.’

Her mother helped her understand those sorts of sacrifices, she says, and she and her sister received few Christmas presents and learned to cook early. But she also loved sport as a child, which is why she is now enjoying her job as sports minister so much now: it’s a ’round peg in a round hole appointment’, she explains, and she has clearly found it easier than many of her colleagues to take to the brief and talk confidently in interviews.

Crouch now wants the government’s sports strategy, published later this year, to focus more on encouraging those who aren’t fervent or elite sportspeople to take part. ‘It’s not just about competition,’ she states. ‘So when we’re looking at where do we invest money, time, energy, in the future, who gets more out of what we do? Somebody who goes to the gym all the time, or somebody that could be encouraged to go out and do something, even if it is just walk, you know, half a mile, who has never done that before?’

Crouch is missing being able to lead by example on the sporting front as her pregnancy progresses: she jokes she can’t even run up stairs at award ceremonies at the moment. But given she is a rare example of a minister who truly knows and loves her brief, she’ll be tearing around many football and hockey pitches for a good while longer.

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Show comments
  • http://semipartisansam.com/ Samuel Hooper

    When Labour MPs charge mindlessly into battle against the Conservatives in defence of the universal human right to pay-TV, of all stupid things, they make no serious point, they win no new allies, and they help precisely no one:

    http://semipartisansam.com/2015/11/13/tracey-crouch-tax-credits-and-the-unravelling-of-the-left-wing-mind/

    But then that’s the modern Left in a nut shell. Quick to share their outrage on social media, glacial when it comes to developing policy or holding the government to account.

    • Lina R

      The left are very indulgent of the dependent class – they don’t expect them to go without anything or suffer the same limitations that those living on their own finances have to experience.

  • Dominic Stockford

    She was right. If people on benefits have TV contracts then they are best off getting rid of them to save money. Many of us who work can’t afford them in the first place.

  • Digger52

    The advert for private health insurance on this page is beyond parody … The true heart of the Tory plan to destroy the NHS

    • Malcolm Stevas

      Sadly the Tories haven’t the balls to “destroy the NHS” though I recognise this fantasy is dear to the heart of Leftists, part of their mantra. The NHS is an unaffordable behemoth that will collapse unless its model is changed radically, perhaps to something closer to the more efficient health services of Germany or France, though not necessarily the same as those.

      • Digger52

        You clearly haven’t read anything substantive about this subject … Like 90 percent of Tories

        • Malcolm Stevas

          It’s possible that I’ve never read “anything substantive” about NHS reform during the several decades I’ve taken an interest in current affairs. It’s possible that articles in political journals, noteworthy newspapers, and a few specialised books too that I’ve managed to take in, might be described as insubstantial or frivolous. Not to mention my having first-hand experience of the medical services in France and Germany, and know people with similar first-hand experience of US medicine. It’s certainly very probable that your dismissive arrogance is par for the course with authoritarian Leftist robots.

          • Digger52

            Calling the NHS an unaffordable behemoth is about as arrogantly dismissive as it is possible to be – as to your reading – congratulations, but clearly nothing useful got passed your Tory glasses filter.

            • Malcolm Stevas

              I’m hardly the only one to hold this view: for rather a long time many people have doubted the wisdom of letting our “behemoth” to continue absorbing as much money as anyone cares to throw at it, for a mediocre service. Someone has to fix it, before the thing collapses under the weight of its own contradictions. But I appreciate that for the Left the NHS is a sacred cow which defies rational analysis.
              And I’m not a Tory, bespectacled or otherwise.

              • Digger52

                65 years and counting – before the Tories decided to wreck it. There is no rational analysis – only ideology from private sector stooges like Landsley and Hunt. Your really do need to read something about the facts.

                • Malcolm Stevas

                  I wouldn’t trust your interpretation of “facts” as far as I could throw it! Those of a conservative disposition look at the way things are, and draw up rules accordingly. Leftists like you are the ones who put ideology before everything, then try to squeeze humanity into your ghastly unworkable framework.

                • Digger52

                  Those of ‘conservative disposition believe in fairy tales told by Murdoch and his ilk and are so brain dead they have put us all at the mercy of a tiny group of greedy crooks in the casino banking sector.

                • Malcolm Stevas

                  Simplistic and crass beyond decency! I was of a conservative disposition long before anyone in this country had heard of Murdoch, and if you can ignore the generally conservative character of the average Brit voter (including a great many traditional Labour voters) you’re on another planet. Ah, those bankers, devils incarnate, responsible for all our ills – talk about fairy tales…

  • Digger52

    Imagine Tracey’s conversation with the leader of Oxfordshire County Council on balancing the books now that Osborne’s crippling local government cuts are coming home to roost in dim witted Etonian millionaire Cameron’s back yard . How delighted he would be to have her advice on cutting out all the unnecessary things like children’s centres and social services. Tory MP
    world is a strange and scary place, full of well meaning idiots like Tracey Crouch who try to implement the will of their malicious leadership.

    • Malcolm Stevas

      As opposed to the humanitarian giants of Labour who bribe their client groups with borrowed money that has to be repaid by the suckers who are net contributors of tax, not net recipients of benefits.

      • Digger52

        Tax is not what pays for welfare . This is basic economics . No Tory economist or news outlet will admit this simple fact so we get the sort of mindless blather by suckers like you.

        • Malcolm Stevas

          If it’s as simple as you suggest, doubtless you could explain your very creative assertion in a couple of sentences.

          • Digger52

            The Government decides what to spend money on and does so. Just like banks make loans – they do not loan out deposits – they create money. Do a bit of reading.

            • Malcolm Stevas

              Pitiful! I doubt you’re a contender for heading up the World Bank. Before you sound off on economics, have a nice lie down first – then decide against it.

              • Digger52

                Suggest you do a bit of reading. The austerity myth won’t stand up in the World Bank or anywhere else. Do you still believe the Bank of England is the source of all our money ? Suggest you read the Bank of England idiot’s guide.

        • CaptainMildred

          Please enlighten us then. Where exactly does the money for welfare come from?

  • Andy M

    The Left considers things like this to simply be part of ‘basic standards of living’. God forbid these people with their iPhone 6, SKY, Netflix and 42-60″ flat screen TVs should have to go without any of these things because of loss of tax credits! These are luxury items and the whole idea of luxury items is that not everyone can have them.

    • Digger52

      When did you have your brain removed and replaced with Daily Mail subnormal garbage ? Human beings try to another – what does that make you ? Katie Hopkins in drag

      • Andy M

        I would ask you a similar type of question in return, but in order to understand it you would actually have to have a modicum of intellect and logic in that vapid, barren, desolate void inside your skull. Alas, you don’t, which renders you unable to understand a very basic concept that if you are truly in financial difficulty, things like a SKY subscription are the last things you can: A) Afford, and B) Should be spending money on if on a tight budget. They are not necessities, apparently you Leftist loons think they are.

        • Digger52

          You, Tracey Crouch and your ilk inhabit a tiny , tiny little world where your pathetic need to avoid the truth means blaming the victims of poverty is the only option – so you invent this sort of Daily mail tosh. Crouch apologised but your are probably too dim to realise what you should apologise about. I suggest you experiment with actually enquiring about how hard many people’s lives are instead of parroting the latest sub normal crap

    • Dominic Stockford

      Good comment.

  • kickinghorse

    “paid subscriptions to TVs” – excellent deployment of a strawman argument.

    • Clive

      What ?

  • Malcolm Stevas

    “Minister for Sport” is a complete waste of time but that apart, Tracey Crouch sounds ok: a decent person, in touch with everyday folk, hardly a baby-eating shire Tory reactionary, made her own way, and a tough cookie with an independent spirit. If she’s said “..things like paid subscriptions to TVs and you just sit there and you
    think you have to sometimes go without if you are going to have people
    make ends meet,”
    I wonder what the fuss could be about. Is this not simple common sense? Adults in their right mind spend within their means, and prioritise. What else is there to say?

    • Clive

      Unfortunately, a lot of people just ‘do what everyone else does’ and technology has moved on at such a rate that it includes a lot of keeping up with technological trends and the ‘latest’ of everything.

      I think children are very demanding of that kind of thing and a lot of advertising is pointed at them as a result

      • Malcolm Stevas

        True, though we’ve had advertising for a very long time, children have always badgered their parents to buy them things, and keeping up with the Joneses is probably as old as humanity. Prudence still applies, is still required of mature adults.

  • ohforheavensake

    Not exactly part of the real world, is she?

    • Malcolm Stevas

      How on earth do you make that out? She seems many times more “real” than the majority of her peers in Parliament.

      • Clive

        You don’t know what he thinks the ‘real world’ is

      • tamimisledus

        That is known as “damning with faint praise”.

        • Malcolm Stevas

          Know what you mean, though these things are relative – and there are some good respectable folk in Parliament, such as John Redwood or Frank Field.

  • davidofkent

    Sports Minister is a non-appointment. Nobody cares and nobody listens. Why is she even an MP?

    • Clive

      Because a load of people voted for her

      That’s the usual reason

      • tamimisledus

        It was members of the Tory party (alone) who foisted her on the voters of her constituency.
        So why did the small numbers in Tory party select her?

        • Clive

          Every candidate in the country is selected by ‘a small number of people’.

          The electors may then take that person or not vote for them. Candidates have been rejected by the electorate in what have been fairly safe constituencies in the past. It is not true to say that just being selected gets you elected.

          Anyway, what have you got against her ?

  • Samuel Miller

    I wonder if Tory minister Tracey Crouch recommends that the poor give up paid Internet subscriptions—which would undermine Universal Credit.

    • commenteer

      Internet subscriptions are very cheap. Not so those for television subscriptions like Sky, wholly unnecessary while Freeview exists.

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Quite. I’m aware that many subscribe to Sky, though I never understood why: there are so many TV channels available already that there are not enough hours in the day to watch them. But I speak as someone who watches virtually no TV, so perhaps Sky is so irresistibly alluring that poor people need it more than they need fresh vegetables…

        • red2black

          I think it was George Orwell (?) who said that his impoverished parents had been given some money to pay for lino to cover their floorboards, but the old man had spent it on a zither instead.

          • Malcolm Stevas

            Really? I thought Orwell’s father was a moderately senior servant of the Empire, and sent his son to Eton. Perhaps you mean one of the folk in Road to Wigan Pier..?

            • red2black

              You’re probably right. I read it about 40 years ago. Definitely a link with Orwell. Some people prefer to spend what money they have on life’s pleasures, rather than on more utilitarian things.

        • Clive

          I watch a lot of TV but I have and have not had any subscriptions. As commenteer said, Freeview is quite enough

        • Digger52

          what a classic piece of mean minded poisonous crap –
          the nasty party is your natural home

          • Malcolm Stevas

            You mean the Tories? Wrong, again.

    • Leon Wolfeson

      It certainly seems something the Tories think is good. After all, their Snoopers Charter is likely to lead to a sharp rise in ISP fees.

  • MidCrisisMan

    I am not sure she is qualified to be an MP let alone a minister.

    • Clive

      What is the qualification for being an MP ?

      Bullingdon membership ? A trade union studies course ?

    • Dominic Stockford

      She is. Requirement to be an MP, win most votes in a General Election in a constituency. She’s done that. She qualifies.

  • WorthReading

    Facebook.com/WorthReadingStuff – best analytical articles from various worldwide media outlets at one place 😉 Read the quality stuff!

  • Mynydd

    Anyone can speak their mind, but it doesn’t mean its worth listening to. I wonder what she’ll say to the doctor, I know you have been on shift for twelve hours, but the baby is due anytime now, that will still leave you a good six hours sleep before you are next on duty

    • red2black

      Back in the 1970s the medics were campaigning for shorter working hours.
      A cover of ‘Anarchy’ magazine showed a cartoon of a woman in labour in a hospital bed, with a doctor standing by: “Hurry up, woman… we close at five.” (tee hee)

  • southerner

    “…..she was inspired by John Major ….and I just thought actually here is a man who had himself been told on many occasions that he wasn’t clever enough or good enough to do anything.’ ”

    He wasn’t.

    • Clive

      Yes he was.

      He got the no-fly zones in Iraq set up and thereby saved a lot of lives

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