Amanda Milling said Covid-19 had put into “sharp focus” the need to rebuild, with the region to take centre stage in plans for a push into cleaner energy.
She said Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda was “very much on course” and that an accelerated programme of house building and job creation would spark life into the West Midlands economy. The Cannock Chase MP opened the Conservative Party conference with a commitment to back voters who had turned to the Tories in the general election.
Speaking after the Prime Minister announced plans to repair Britain’s economy through clean energy and wind powered homes, she told the Express & Star: “This pandemic has really put into sharp focus the need to rebuild. And we are going to need to accelerate that in order to recover from it. This is a real opportunity for the West Midlands, through the levelling up agenda, to be in an even stronger position in the future.
More Covid-19 coverage:
“We’ve got a strong manufacturing history, with companies like Jaguar Land Rover at the forefront of cleaner manufacturing. It is clear the opportunity is there to innovate and be at the heart of the green industrial revolution.”
On job losses Ms Milling said: “The Chancellor has been honest in his assessment – we’re not going to be able to save every job but we’ll do everything we can to support people.”
Milling has no fear of ‘same old Labour’ as Tories look to future
To say the last few months has been a hectic period for Ms Milling would be something of an understatement.
The Cannock Chase MP has visited 58 constituencies won by the Tories in December’s general election, as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, gauging public opinion on the party before it heads into local elections next year. She says she is making up for lost time, getting to see places that were off limits during the lockdown and testing the strength of the Conservatives hold on the old ‘Red Wall’ seats.
“It’s not the ‘Red Wall’ anymore it’s the ‘Blue Wall’, it’s been rebranded,” she tells me, describing herself as “one of the first blue bricks” in the Midlands when she won Cannock Chase in 2015.
She says she has been thrilled to see the new intake of MPs “making a real impact” in their constituencies, and said people across the country had recognised measures the Government has put in place to support them during the pandemic. “People understand what we have done and the response I received on the road has been overwhelmingly positive,” she added.
“I was in a restaurant in Devon and one of the employees came up to me and thanked the Government.”
While she is confident that her party is heading in the right direction, she is also distinctly unimpressed with Labour under new leader Sir Keir Starmer, insisting nothing has changed from the last election.
“Sir Keir served under Jeremy Corbyn and supported all of his policies,” she said.
“The leader has changed but they are still the same old Labour Party. Throughout the pandemic he has sat on the sidelines and said ‘we’ll work with you’, but then just criticised everything we have done without coming up with solutions.
“People see through the Labour Party’s approach to all of this. Sir Keir only talks really for the people of North London.”
Under usual circumstances she would have been in Birmingham this past Saturday, delivering the opening speech of the Conservative conference to a packed International Convention Centre. Instead, with the conference virtual due to Covid, she spoke to television cameras in a studio in front of a handful of people.
“It was a real honour to open the conference, but it was a very different experience away from the auditorium without all the cheering and clapping,” she says.
“We have all missed out on seeing colleagues, but on the other hand in terms of members signing up it has been our biggest conference ever.”
Her big announcement was the Conservatives setting up a second headquarters in Leeds in 2021, a move she admits left her feeling a tinge of disappointment.
“As a Midlands MP I would loved to have seen a new HQ here and I’m sorry it is not in one of our fantastic towns and cities,” she said.
“The key point is that as a party we are committed to the ‘Blue Wall’ and we wanted to have a presence in the areas where we won a lot of new seats.
Ms Milling says the number one priority for the country must be to reduce Covid infection rates, meaning for the time being restrictions on personal freedoms are necessary.
“I understand people’s frustrations,” she said.