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LIVE24SEVEN // Interview THE INT E R V I EW – AL E X CHAL K


“You are there to defend and your job is to test the evidence. On the other hand, if you’re prosecuting, you are leading a team to smash counter-terrorism, marshalling complex evidence, evidence on DNA, explosives and presenting to the jury. Sitting there for the verdict is a moment of high drama. I loved doing it – it was a hugely rewarding, stimulating and enjoyable experience.”


Given that he is so driven I wonder how he has managed to hook and keep a gorgeous wife, Sarah, who is mother to his two little girls and a barrister too. “I met my wife at a train station in 2009. We were both barristers on our way to court from Marylebone to Aylesbury. We got chatting about our cases, and one thing led to another.” They married in 2011 in Temple Church, London.


“We have two girls of 5 and 3. I feel guilty sometimes because I’m away Monday till Thursday when Parliament is sitting and then Friday and Saturday are full working days and it puts an enormous strain on Sarah.” I ask if Sarah has given him a ‘cut- off’ date where he will have to cease and desist from further nation-saving notions. “We haven’t had that conversation yet,” he admits sheepishly.


There are fundamental drivers for his ambition and Chalk is not sitting still this summer. “A marginal seat like Cheltenham with a small majority - you can’t hang around. You feel like you’re on a three- month renewable lease. I’ve had this vision since 2013 when I was selected.”


Social mobility and increasing life chances for others are very much the roots of his ambitious programme for change.


“I thought Cheltenham (in 2013) was underperforming. It is a beautiful town but we need more opportunity for our community. We can’t rely on retail.” With £3bn investment being spent on GCHQ over the next ten years, Chalk convinced everyone, including the previous Chancellor George Osborne, that Cheltenham needed a cyber innovation centre. “I want people to know we are a pioneering, exciting go-getting town.”


Chalk has also managed to secure additional funding for education. Cheltenham head teachers, parents and governors backed him because Cheltenham did not reach the national average of education spend per child. “The Government has now agreed £4,800 minimum for each child which is a huge step forward to levelling the playing field. I believe it is the single most important thing to emerge in the last months in Cheltenham.”


Educational funding is not the only answer. “We need to create chances for young people once they move from education. We have pockets of generational poverty and unemployment and one of reasons I’m passionate about the Cyber Park is it sits next to GCHQ in just such an area. I want to bring opportunity to parts of Cheltenham which hasn’t experienced it before.”


Alex is a whirlwind of enthusiasm. “You have to be rigorous and energetic about getting it for Cheltenham otherwise other towns will pass us by.”


Cheltenham infrastructure is so important and a real bugbear to those who have to commute to or from this region. Being so close to Birmingham, Bristol and London would make you think we would be well served but almost the opposite is true. “London feels like a clogged artery of investment. From next year, however, the new, longer trains will mean the service will be under 2 hours but it is breaking a huge psychological barrier. Unclog investments so we can create jobs, but it won’t happen


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