Liz Kendall interview: The MP on rap music, Margaret Thatcher, and hiding her holiday snaps

Kendall joined the Labour Party in 1992, was elected MP for Leicester West in 2010, and was appointed Shadow Minister for Care and Older People a year later. She is currently standing for election to become leader of the Labour Party

Oscar Quine
Friday 07 August 2015 19:09 BST
Kendall says: 'Thatcher's politics of divide and rule were everything that I hated'
Kendall says: 'Thatcher's politics of divide and rule were everything that I hated' (Getty Images)

I imagine you're working pretty hard just now, but in more relaxed times what does a typical weekend entail?

There might be a bit of work: canvassing or a visit in my constituency. I always try to see my family, who live on the south coast, and ideally go out with friends on a Saturday night. On Sunday I watch a bit of the politics programmes or a boxset, and lie on the sofa and recover.

A lot has been made of your love of rap music; what else do you listen to?

I listen to the brilliant Liza Tarbuck on Radio 2 on a Saturday night, when I'm getting ready to go out. And I downloaded a Ray LaMontagne album recently.

What's your first political memory?

My strongest was when we lost the 1992 election. The sheer anger: ranting at the television. My then-boyfriend looked at me and rolled his eyes and said, "Either shut up or do something about it." That's when I joined the Labour Party.

You grew up under the Thatcher government. Was it inspiring having a female Prime Minister?

No, it wasn't inspiring at all. Her politics of divide and rule were everything that I hated. This sense that some communities could be sacrificed – that's what really drove me. It felt immoral.

Would you say she was as a feminist?

No, I never saw her as a feminist. I never saw her as someone who stood up for women. I felt that this kind of politics, where you write off people, was utterly wrong. That really started my interest in politics.

You went out with the comedian Greg Davies. He said that the political education he gained from you was "transformative". Would you say the same about him and comedy?

I wish some of his ability to make people laugh had rubbed off on me. Doing stand-up in front of arenas or clubs is something else; it's not a talent I have. What comedy do I like? I love Flight of the Conchords and the Mighty Boosh.

The Camerons are off to Cornwall and Portugal this summer, and we'll soon no doubt be seeing their holiday snaps. Is a politician's family life of legitimate concern to the electorate?

I'm asked a lot about my personal life and about Greg and I understand that interest. People want to know what you're like when you're not at work. It is completely legitimate. But you've got to keep something for yourself. Your loved ones don't choose to go into politics, you do.

So we'll be seeing your holiday pics?

Oh god, no! I am going to try to get away with my family. But I want to try to keep some of my private life private.

You recently admitted you smoked cannabis at university. Is it hypocritical for politicians to have taken drugs?

No. When I smoked, I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Can you imagine if it was like that: everything you're doing as you grow up you're wondering, "What is that going to mean if I ever end up being a politician?" You wouldn't have anybody except ruthlessly ambitious automatons going into politics.

Jeremy Corbyn has become an unlikely sex symbol. Should we be worried about his sexual objectification?

No, I think he's dealt with it with incredibly good grace.

Are you concerned that if Corbyn wins it could break up the Labour Party?

No, I don't think it would. I think that is really overblown. I really like Jeremy personally. I think his politics would be wrong for the party and the country, but I'd never quit the party I love and I don't think others would either.

If I was putting a tenner on the leadership contest, who should I put it on?

Me; I've got the best odds just now. You'd get a good return on your money.


Liz Kendall, 44, was born and raised in the village of Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire. Attending the nearby Watford Grammar School for Girls, she was a contemporary of Geri Halliwell and current Conservative cabinet minister Priti Patel. She joined the Labour Party in 1992, a year before graduating with a first in history from Queen’s College, Cambridge – where she also captained the women’s football team. Elected MP for Leicester West in 2010, she was appointed Shadow Minister for Care and Older People a year later. She is currently standing for election to become leader of the Labour Party.

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