3 July 2014…..Not long into his term as MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley suddenly faced a battle with oesophagal cancer. It was not public knowledge; he kept it to himself; he soldiered on through what must have been a very stressful and demanding time as he also had to serve as Conservative MP for Hove (his choice). Those who have experienced life-limiting health threats themselves can only marvel at his bravery and determination to boss it out and work to be healthy again. But now he has taken the decision not to seek re-election at the 2015 General Election. At the end of his letter to the Prime Minister he makes, perhaps his first ever, public reference to that illness, and to recovery “two years ago” .
We at saveHOVE have one huge reason to be grateful to our MP.
Within just a few weeks of winning office, asked to sign our petition requesting Brighton & Hove City Council buy Connaught School, in Connaught Road, Hove from City College, he played a blinder.
For some time it had been known that City College would sell Connaught as it had plans for a huge redevelopment at Pelham Street. In anticipation of City College disposing of this 1890’s purpose built infant school turned adult education centre, Ninka Willcock, on behalf of the Brighton Society, worked for and gained a Grade 2 Listing for the building to safeguard it from demolition. We heard Tesco wanted it, that flats would be built there. Allsorts.
It was, however, known that, inexplicably, this building had not been allowed onto a shortlist of sites for a new primary school (but the scrub nursery area of Hove Park was!). BHCC struggled to find a way to increase primary school places, in part because Govt diktat stated that no new schools could be set up by local authorities, that all new schools have to be Academies/Free Schools. And this part of Hove had NOTHING. We had to act.
Just before the General Election, when a notice of closure, ahead of disposal, was posted outside the school, saveHOVE moved and began a petition to try to get it for primary school use again, and at the photo-call to advertise our new campaign, Action4Kids clmbed on board, and we thenceforth worked together to get it. Then came the election of Mike Weatherley.
Fortunately for us, the new MP had Robert Nemeth’s knowledge and interest in historic buildings on staff for advice. And he knew full well what his constituents wanted. But trickily, his fellow Conservatives formed the Brighton & Hove City Council Administration. So he called a meeting of Constituents, Councillors and Council officers to discuss it. Red-faced Cllr Brian Oxley sat muttering into his lap, shaking his head negatively. Cllr Jan Young (ward cllr) was incensed, enraged by obvious support in the room for the saveHOVE campaign. Other serving cllrs attending seemed shellshocked and uneasy. Labour’s Pat Hawkes, who had held Cllr Vanessa Brown’s brief in the previous Administration told residents she regretted that Connaught had been Listed. She was totally opposed to Connaught being bought, refurbished and brought back into use as an infant school. Why? Whatever; by the end of the meeting, the new MP was publicly announcing he would be signing the petition. And that was that. The Administration was not going to go against their brand new MP. We got the school as a satellite building for West Hove Infants and a full refurbishment of it too. Without what he did, we would not have got that school. Fact. Petition or no petition.
Today, 3rd July, 2014, at 12:38, this email arrived from MP Mike Weatherley, sent to those on his newsletter emailing list. It said the following:
“I write today as I wish to let all those who receive my regular news updates know that I will not be standing for re-election at the General Electionin 2015.
As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make. Below is my letter to the Prime Minister which he has received today. I wanted to let my constituents know this news before it is circulated to the press later today.
I look forward to continuing to represent the wonderful residents of Hove and Portslade until May next year.”
Mike Weatherley’s letter to the Prime Minister said the following:
“It is after profound consideration that I write to inform you that I will not be standing for re-election at the General Election in 2015.
I have nothing but huge admiration for the work of the Government over the past four years, including what has been done to get our economy back on track. In Hove and Portslade, this has translated to a drop in unemployment of a staggering 37.5%. I am strongly in favour too of our efforts to reform our membership of the EU but even more so of our pledge of a referendum in 2017 as I have mentioned to you directly on a number of occasions.
In terms of my own work, I have proudly served on the Administration and Justice Select Committees. I have campaigned relentlessly, with much success, to bring common sense to our laws on residential squatting. I have fought hard on a number of animal rights issues and firmly believe that the hunting ban should remain in place. I have also highlighted the dangers of nuclear power and, indeed, the benefits of solar and other renewables.
Over the past year, I have taken immense pride in serving as your Intellectual Property Adviser. I am sure that you will agree that we have made huge steps towards really getting politicians and industry talking – which is key to making the most of our country’s wealth of creative talent. It would be a privilege to continue offering my assistance in this regard.
It goes without saying that my years representing the wonderful people of Hove and Portslade have been one of the most fulfilling periods of my life which I will look back on with very fond memories. I have made so many friends over the years including so many of my loyal supporters both in and out of Brighton & Hove Conservatives. I cannot thank them enough.
Ultimately, beating cancer two years ago has led me to review what I want for the future. It has been the toughest decision of my life but I do feel that now is the time to move on.
MIKE WEATHERLEY MP