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LIVE24SEVEN // Interview THE INT E R V I EW – AL E X CHAL K Sandra Paul met with Alex Chalk, former Criminal Barrister and the MP for Cheltenham Real Life


Politicians get a rough ride from the British people. Political mistrust, formed against a backdrop of corruption, fraud, and favours, has seemed to me to have increased over the past couple of years. Frankly, many of us want a breather from ‘politics’. Just a few years of ‘boring’ would be good.


So why on earth would anyone sensible want to be a politician right now? Amazingly enough, there do still seem to be real people stepping up to the job we all hope it should be; that noble idea of offering one’s services for the betterment of Queen and Country.


I went to meet Alex Chalk, Conservative MP for Cheltenham since 2015 to find out what kind of politician he is.


The first thing that strikes me about him is the sheer bouncing energy and enthusiasm he has for helping people. Although we only had an hour, Alex was anxious to ensure we covered every subject that was important to him - words spilling over each other in case he forgot to mention something crucial.


Alex is a local boy from Foxcote. “I grew up in the house my grandmother had lived in since the war. My younger brother, sister and I had a very happy childhood.” He attended independent school Winchester College before studying Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford.


“I was always quite bookish and quite academic at school. But I also enjoyed


the theatre and spent quite a lot of time doing drama at school and university. But I was always interested in books and my guitar.”


Alex slips this last point in quietly. It turns out that he used to be in a band at school and his musical ambitions have not left him.


“One of the most embarrassing things that happened to me recently was a surprise party for my 40th here in Cheltenham. There were loads of people and an amazing local band the Chip Shop Boys, were hired by my wife. They asked me to join them though I had no idea what songs we were going to play. The guitar was thrust into my hands and we played Eagle Eyed Cherry, even some Oasis. My wife completely stitched me up on that one.” Is it on video? If it is, it will never see the light of day.


Alex admits that he was ‘reasonably well refreshed’ while living the Rock God dream at his 40th. I asked his tipple of choice, “My wife will tell you that I’m not much of a drinker. My preference would be a warm, English beer.” Which is handy, as Alex has started taking his politics to the pub.


“People don’t want to go to their local MP’s surgery to discuss things but they are more likely to debate things in the pub. We advertised on Facebook and the response was fantastic. People from all walks of life, some were working, some not. We went from topic-to-topic; Brexit, parking.”


Alex has an interesting theory about the rise of social media in a progressively reclusive society. “In this increasingly digital world, we don’t talk to each other. We don’t mix with people of different views. One of the impacts of social media is that people can be more entrenched in their political standpoints. I can see in the United States, for example, a real corrosion of debate. In Cheltenham, there exists a powerful sense of community and social responsibility - it’s one of the reasons I feel so comfortable living here. But it is still important getting people to engage face-to- face. I loved the ‘politics in the pub’ event and we’ll do more.”


Alex did not always want to be a politician. It was not until his 2nd year of university when he did a mini-pupillage for work experience in a London Chambers that he realised he had found his vocation. Chalk qualified as a barrister from Inns of Court School of Law. He has prosecuted and defended cases involving terrorism, international fraud and murder.


Again, Alex’s eyes light up when he enthusiastically describes his early career as a barrister.


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