Lynne Featherstone interview Part 2: The future

In the hours following the icy gales of Storm Doris, I caught up with Lynne at Taunton’s most distinguished hotel, The Castle. This is the second instalment of our chat. You can read the others here. A more detailed discussion of the path to same sex marriage will appear tomorrow.

Of your achievements in politics, where would you put the equal marriage bill? 

Oh, right at the top. It is the most public. It is the most clear cut and obvious. But it shares with others. Clearly the FGM campaign wouldn’t have happened. I am incredibly proud of it because I find it extraordinary that we allow a practice such as this to go on in this country and around the world. I always say that if they were chopping off half a boy’s willy, this practice would not have lasted four seconds let alone four thousand years. This is because we don’t rate women and girls.

The one that people don’t know about is the disability in the developing world campaign, which I’m incredibly proud of. I changed the structure on how we give money. I refused to give any money to any educational charity working in the developing world unless they had totally accessible schools. That made a huge difference.

That is the thrill of politics – you can use it to try to make the world a better place. It sounds terribly naive, but that’s what I went into politics for. I was one of the very few lucky people who managed to do some big things. I got a lot of satisfaction at every level, but there’s nothing like being a minister.

Along with many other Lib Dem MPs, you lost your seat in 2015. What are you up to now?

Yes, I did lose my seat. For the first two weeks, I laid on the sofa eating chocolate and drinking alcohol while watching every episode of 24 and all the Harry Potter films. That was an excellent start to my new life!

House of Cards?

I’d already seen that!

Anyway, I got up and started writing my book Equal Ever After. I was really worried that history would close over our heads. We were out of government. Cameron was saying that his proudest achievement was same sex marriage. He was trying to claim what I had spent months fighting for and eventually achieving. I thought, in fact, it was despite him half of the time! However, I was very glad of his support, and he does deserve credit for sticking by it when his party were in eruptions. I do sometimes worry though, as he did say that if he had known how much upset this would have caused he would never had backed it. I do wonder if he gave the referendum as a sort of balm to the Tory party post same sex marriage.

Do you really think that it had that big an effect?

I’m not claiming responsibility for leaving the EU! It was very very deep running, and the Tory party were deeply split by it. He upset many from conservative organisations who questioned why he was doing this. I have to give Cameron credit though. He was genuinely pro same sex marriage. There’s no doubt about his view, but the politics often got in the way.

And your book?

It’s called Equal Ever After and is the story of same sex marriage. There’s a little on me at the beginning, and the epilogue was about my work, as International Development Minister, on gay rights in Africa. That was a really tough nut to crack, but we made many advances.

I wrote the book to get it all on record.

Designer, volunteer, entrepreneur, campaigner, politician, peer, what’s next for Lynne Featherstone?

I love the Energy and Climate Change portfolio that our leader Tim Farron has given me. When he offered me this, I warned him that I’ve never had anything to do with green issues. Although obviously being environmentally sound is a good thing. He said ‘I know, I don’t want someone who knows things. I want someone who will do things’. We are doing things, and it is very exciting. I would have liked to have been a cabinet minister, but I get it after we were in government! I am enjoying that portfolio though.

The Lords is really different. I worked between 12 and 18 hours, seven days a week, for literally 17 years. Now, as a working peer, I go to the Lords every day. I work between three and seven hours a weekday. It feels like part time, as I’ve always worked many many hours.

I’d like to be a bestselling author. I really enjoyed writing Equal Ever After, so I thought I’d have a go at fiction. I’m writing a political thriller. I am not going to tell you about it though!

* Rob May is a Political History PhD student and Lib Dem activist.

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2 Comments

  • Thanks for the comment and suggestions Ian. I would love to have spent all evening interviewing Lynne, but unfortunately we had less than an hour. I agree, she had (and still has) many other important roles, which are certainly worth discussing. If I get the opportunity for another interview, I’ll bear your suggestions in mind.

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