Harry Mottram for Bath Voice asked the city’s MP some very personal questions and received some very candid replies.
The first question was an easy one – who do you most admire in Bath and why? I prefixed it with a line about knowing how old she was and how many children she had but before I could get the question out she said: “I’m going to be a grandmother!”
“Oh, Granny Hobhouse,” I said, “tell me more.” And she did: “My eldest daughter is expecting our first grandchild at the end of February,” she said, “she married five years ago and is 30 – the same age I was when I had her.
“I never thought I’d be excited but I am so excited. I thought I wouldn’t be that excited having had children but I am.”
Back to the question of who to admire in Bath.
“I’ve been really impressed with the work of James Carlin and BAYNES 3SG with their coordination of volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis,” she explained, “They brought people together and fill the gaps with help for the lonely or helping with shopping.
“There are other volunteer groups like the Citizens Advice Bureau – they have all done wonderful work.”
Onto the next question which is what were her New Year’s resolutions? There was a long silence. I suggested taking up daily exercising, visiting long lost relatives or going on a diet. This last idea finally struck a chord.
“I don’t actually need to lose weight – for me it is the other way around and I’m bordering on being too thin,” she said. On my suggestion she should eat more food to fatten her up she accepted eating ‘a little bit more’ would be her answer.
Wera Hobhouse is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders – a role she says is close to her heart as around one million people in the UK suffer from conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.
The next question was also based on her work in Westminster and in particular on her interest in women’s issues. In September she was given the job of Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women and Equalities but back in January she made headlines for her work making ‘upskirting’ a crime.
Upskirting is taking a photograph looking up a woman’s skirt without their consent – something which hadn’t been covered in law before. She presented a private members bill which looked set to be successful but it was voted down by Sir Christopher Chope MP much to the outrage of fellow MPS. Eventually the Government took it up and it became law. So the obvious question I asked was Christopher Chope on her Christmas card list?
I felt an icy silence. She simply said: “No. I have nothing to say to that man.”
I had got her onto the subject of politics so the next question had to be about the current Government.
“This is a bad Government, who have undermined the rule of law, damaged and underfunded local Government and have been dismantling the Welfare State,” she said.
She thought they would hang on to 2024 though, as they had an 80 seat majority and could do want they liked. Especially since they had purged the centre right MPs in 2019.
Finally I moved onto less contentious grounds such as her passion for art.
“I paint figuratively, people and bodies in movement,” she explained, “it’s a subject I’ve worked on all my life as an artist apart from college when you try out different techniques and subjects.
“For me it is how you define people in time and space – something that is not fixed in time.”
She said when children came along she had less time and changed her style – using mixed media, underpainting with acrylic, printing on top and using oils as well to complete a canvass.
Wera Benedicta von Reden was born in1960 in Hanover, Germany. After school she studied art in Munster and Paris before completing a master’s degree in history and fine art in Berlin.
She married William Hobhouse in 1989 and moved to England the following year living first in London and later in Rochdale where she was a Conservative Councillor. However she was criticised for defecting to the Liberal Democrats over a controversial plan to build homes on a former asbestos site as she didn’t trigger a by election. However the development she campaigned against was stopped.
After moving to Bath in 2014 she was selected to stand in the 2017 parliamentary general election when she defeated the Conservative Ben Howlett, doubling her majority in 2019.
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