Wiser, tougher and ready to fight a General Election

Wiser, tougher and ready to fight a General Election

chris loder 2

“Beware the quiet man. For while others speak, he watches. And while others act, he plans. And when they finally rest… he strikes.” Anon

West Dorset’s MP Chris Loder is about as far from the constituency’s usual politician as it’s possible to be.
He grew up in an ordinary farming family in Folke, near Sherborne, and attended the Gryphon School, then spent 20 years working on the trains.
He said: “In the 90s and early 2000s I felt like a second-class citizen, not having been to university.
“But BSE and foot and mouth had brought our farm to its knees and we just couldn’t afford university.
“But I did love my time on the trains, and went all over the country and all over the world.”
He was just 38 when he was selected as the Tory candidate for a snap election in 2019, when the average age of those elected was 51. He had never nurtured dreams of being an MP and only wanted to represent one of the three constituencies within a few miles of where he lived.
Despite having experienced tough situations – as part of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and on 7/7, when he was manager of Paddington Station, aged 23, and had to evacuate passengers when a bomb went off 100 yards up the track – becoming MP was a shock to the system, and he’s had to toughen up enormously since.
“My predecessor went to Eton and was a career politician,” he says. “He could have been an MP anywhere. I would only have represented West Dorset, North Dorset or South Somerset. It’s never been my life’s ambition to do this job.
“I think I’m more down to earth, more hands-on.
“When you represent your home it’s different to when you’re flown in.
“I think because I am from this area I am intuitive about what’s right for this community.”
His victory saw him scoop a record number of votes – 33,359. However the higher than usual turnout meant his majority was lower than Letwin’s. “Brexit was still a thing,” he says. “The Lib Dems promised to reverse Brexit and people voted for that.”
The first two years were a rough ride – especially for a new politician. The pandemic meant that MPs were having to deal with unprecedented issues and challenges.
“The first two years were horrific,” he said. “We were just firefighting, the whole time.
“I was dealing with so many people whose businesses were going to go bust, people isolating and not knowing where to turn – very serious situations, urgent situations.
“I remember I discovered vitamin D tablets then – I was so pale with the lack of sunlight.
“The second two years have enabled me to be the type of constituency MP I wanted to be.”
Now 42, Chris is looking ahead to his second election as a wiser, tougher person.
He said: “Being in the RMT toughened me up a bit, but nothing prepared me for how threatened you can feel when you’re an MP. I’ve been mobbed in the street, I’ve had someone stalking around my garden at night. Looking back, I would like to have been more prepared for that.”
He started dating George, a doctor, just after being elected and the pair are still going strong.
George has accompanied him on the odd work outing, but Chris is loath to wheel him out every five minutes like a WAG, or whatever the political equivalent of a WAG might be.
Instead, he keeps politics separate to his personal life, and plugs away doggedly, having achieved more than many realise in his own quiet way.

Chris Pictures Chris and patrons of the Conservative Animal Welfare Network

“People can misinterpret the fact I am softly spoken, and believe I don’t have grit, determination and tenacity,” he said.
“But there weren’t many new MPs who called for the Prime Minister to go (Boris Johnson), publicly in the Sunday Telegraph.
“There will always be people with deeply held political views that prevent them seeing that.
“I was so moved when a staunch Labour supporter gave me a present to thank me for helping him and his wife in a difficult situation.
“They would never vote for me, but being a politician isn’t always about politics.
“And being an MP isn’t easy, especially when you are presented with issues for which there’s no satisfactory answer. You have to make a decision, despite not liking any of the options.”
Chris is proud of what he has achieved – most notably helping to win funding for Dorset County Hospital to extend its emergency department: “That came from some pretty intense lobbying.”
There’s also his work on the Animal Welfare Bill: “That turned up the dial on prosecutions.”
Above all, he aims to grab a fairer share of funding for what has been seen as a prosperous area and is thus underfunded, compared to others with more visible deprivation.
Whether he will win a second term is now up to the electorate, and with the Lib Dems looking rosy in the polls for West Dorset, it’s crunch time for the Tories here, after 139 years.
Next month: Lib Dem candidate Edward Morello

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