Lunch with... Tessa Munt
This article is from the January 2013 issue of Total Politics
Tessa Munt, the Lib Dem MP for Wells. PPS to business secretary Vince Cable since March 2012, and member of the public administration committee since 2010. Prior to being elected in 2010, she had run three times for various seats, persevering because she wanted to do more than “shout at the radio”.
Bordering Victoria and St James’s, Bank Westminster stands out as slightly quirkier among the surrounding slick offices and hotels. Comedic pictures of royal guards doing Olympic sports in their busbies line the walls, and the dining room is a friendly half-moon conservatory overlooking a rustic courtyard.
Starter Both had pumpkin soup with focaccia bread.
Main Caramelised onion tart with Somerset goat’s cheese; roast butternut squash tart with watercress and Devonshire cheese.
Dessert Dark chocolate fondant; hand-piped macaroons.
We drank Hot water (Munt’s usual tipple); cranberry juice.
Select committees We’ve all seen the public accounts committee in full pelt, really going for it on some of those corporations. It’s extraordinary; it makes really good visual and relevant politics because it’s seeping into people’s consciousness. I’m on the public administration committee, which is an absolute hoot – famously, the story of those flipping fig trees in Portcullis House got into the public domain... £40,000 worth of what?
Being a government member There’s a downside. For example, over the caravan tax proposal, I had a whole bunch of hopping-mad constituents. I said, ‘I can talk to the Treasury about this, but you have to understand I must vote for it, because I’m a member of the government’. I think I have more power as a government member than I do just throwing my toys out of the pram and resigning. But if I was asked to vote in favour of nuclear weapons, I couldn’t do that. The hardest thing I had to vote for was the change to criminal injuries compensation. I actually think what the government – of which I’m a part – has done is simply terrible. It’s petty, and I’m not sure it’s good legislation.
Fuel prices We haven’t actually implemented any of these various rises Labour set up, but for some reason we always sound like we’re slightly on the back foot, because people start campaigning against it, then the chancellor goes, “Oh, alright then, I won’t”. He’d actually take the moral high ground if he said, “This idea’s ridiculous, I’m not going to do anything.” But there we are. I’m not him, he’s not me.
Coalition I think coalition works well – I hope we have more! It’s sensible for people to work together. There’s every chance of another hung Parliament: we probably would apply the same rule as last time, and enter a coalition agreement. I think we bring a bit of caring to a Conservative coalition, and maybe we’d bring some economic common sense to a Labour coalition.
The Leveson report I think Nick [Clegg] did exactly the right thing, because our position was so fundamentally different. It’s not illiberal – the difference is between liberal and libertarian. Your libertarian would say leave everything. Liberals need to make sure there’s a safety net.
And I can promise you we’re not close to anyone in the media; they don’t ‘do’ Lib Dems. We’re not exciting enough. [But] I got Mail-ed three Sundays running, I think. I couldn’t afford to do anything about it. I had major newspaper journalists coming to talk to my children. It wasn’t right.
A tasty but reasonably-priced business lunch in a quiet, low-key setting. The service is quick, the food simple and the atmosphere calm.
Not suitable for
Vegetarians. Fish and steak lovers will feel more at home than hungry herbivores, who would have to scour the starters for an appropriate dish.
Decent prices for such an upmarket area; the home-baked macaroons were surprisingly affordable at £3.95.
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