Political Agenda – Wera Hobhouse MP

Wera Hobhouse takes a moment to reflect on the situation in Ukraine when she is asked. 

“It’s frightening”, she says simply.

Hobhouse has been through a destabilised Europe before, as MPs deal with a war which has sent shockwaves through geopolitical terrain.  

Born‌ ‌in 1960 in Hanover, ‌Hobhouse recalls celebrating in Berlin on the night that the Berlin Wall came down. 

Hobhouse became politically active after 1989’s fall of communism.

“At the time we saw the big threat of the Soviet Union, communism, marxism, against parliamentary democracy.

“I became part of an organisation that wanted to educate young people my age about our values, our principles and why it was important that parliamentary democracy was ready to defend itself.”

Bath’s MP since 2017, Hobhouse draws parallels with her experience of the Cold War with fears of the situation in eastern Europe today sparking a nuclear war.

“If something had gone wrong, we would have had a nuclear war probably over my hometown of Hanover.

“That threat and that anxiety hung over us as a young generation… it has come back and it’s quite disturbing.”

Hobhouse voiced the concerns many have about the unpredictable nature and character of Vladimir Putin, the architect of the conflict in Ukraine.  

“Putin has shown himself to be incredibly unpredictable… one can not take anything off the table of what Putin might be up to.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, has appealed to Western leaders for a no fly zone to be imposed over Ukraine. This is a line that Nato countries have not been willing to cross. 

Hobhouse believes that escalating tensions with Russia and the West will have grave consequences. 

“That [no-fly zone] has the potential of really blowing the whole thing up.”

The government has received heavy criticism over its requirements for Ukrainian refugees to enter the country, despite Boris Johnson’s instance the UK’s offer is “incredibly generous”.

Hobhouse dismisses the prime minister’s claims as “nonsense.

“The government has peddled an anti-immigrant, anti-refugee politics for such a long time… it’s shameful”. 

She was a former Conservative and was elected as a Conservative councillor in Rochdale District Council, Lancashire.  Later, she defected to Liberal Democrats and became the Liberal Democrat Group leader of the Council.

When asked why she settled on representing the Liberal Democrats, Hobhouse jokes it’s because members of the party “love to argue”. 

Hobhouse clarifies: “We can be very independent and have our own opinions within our party without being too harshly whipped and corralled into a certain position.”

Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on women and equality, has been a strong advocate for gender equality. 

She lists her proudest political accomplishment as making up for a particular criminal offence. Hobhouse believes the UK still has a long way to go in addressing misogyny.

“I’ve tried for a long time unsuccessfully to make misogyny a hate crime… unless we actually include misogyny into our hate crime legislation, we don’t make the progress that we could eventually make.”

Hobhouse is comfortable working with cross-party groups. She lists Maria Miller, Peter Aldous, Caroline Lucas as colleagues.

Ultimately though, Hobhouse is adamant politics comes down to one thing: Who has the “better ideas.

“I have a clear optimism that in the end, the better ideas will win… if I didn’t believe that, I’d probably go home.”