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Simon Kirby: The Conservative candidate for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven talks to Latest
What made you want to become an MP?
Business and politics have been continuous threads throughout most of my adult life.
Twenty-three years go I was elected to East Sussex County Council and I stood for council in 1993, 1994 and 1995 in Kingscliffe, Marina and Rottingdean wards. I was elected to City Council and campaigned to make Brighton & Hove a city.
I was born in Hastings and I am very proud to have lived in Brighton for the majority of my life. I can trace my family history for hundreds of years, and being an MP is a real privilege. Being an MP for an area you know and love, in which your family have lived is wonderful.
I have 6 children ranging from 12 years to 23 years, and feel very part of this community.
What did you do prior to being an MP?
I ran a chain of businesses with my business partner, Martin Webb, [Webb-Kirby ran the successful chain of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in Brighton]. I was involved in the successful launch of Surf 107, which is now Juice 107 FM.
What has been your proudest achievement in the last five years?
The hospital campaign has been a significant part of my work. A new £480 million development which will create a world class hospital for the city. The people of this city have waited over 50 years for a new hospital, and if I have played even a small part in that, that makes me a very happy man.
Staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital all do fantastic work, but some of the buildings pre-date Florence Nightingale dating back to 1822. The hospital needs modern heating, ventilation, storage space, level floors and good ceiling heights for a modern hospital. If we want 21st century care, we need all these facilities as well as a helicopter!
Also the Saltdean Lido is now happening. Seven million pounds of new investment, when everyone said it wouldn’t happen and we’ve proved them wrong.
I pushed forward same-sex marriage in our party. Brighton will be in the history books, as famously the first same-sex marriage took place at Brighton Pavilion.
If re-elected, what are your key aims?
I am happy to be a hardworking, local MP addressing the concerns of all constituents. I try hard to work for everyone, not just Conservative voters.
What do you really love about Brighton?
I live in Kemptown. The constituency is from Palace Pier to the Newhaven border and encompasses the Amex Stadium. 90,000 people live in this area, and I am proud to live in the centre, the heart of this great area.
Brighton is a fantastically different place on almost every level. All year round there are things happening. I’ve been here most of my life and am still discovering more and more things.
I’m a fan of both Whitehawk Football Club and Brighton & Hove Football Club. Peacehaven and Telscombe are also doing well. Football is an integral part of the city. Whitehawk stand a good chance of going up – they play in the Ryman premier. Chris Hughton is doing a great job at BHAFC. I have two season tickets, both in the North Stand. It’s nice to be part of a lively crowd and a nice break from being an MP.
For an ideal day in Brighton, we’re spoilt for choice. The Plough in Rottingdean for lunch, is great, although there are a huge selection of restaurants and cafes, we forget how lucky we are. I’d go to the football at Whitehawk or the Amex, Franco’s to get my hair cut, and for the evening, catch some live music. We’re lucky to have the Concorde in our constituency, it’s a great rock venue.
I love being an advocate for this city.
What do you think of all the new developments happening in the city?
The city is growing. There are a number of interesting new startups, a fall in youth unemployment and expansion of the universities. But we need a robust city plan. Whether you’re a business or a resident, you need certainty. I’ve campaigned for increased rail capacity, for an extra line down to Brighton. Gatwick expanding could also create more jobs. We need to look at building on more brownfield sites.
Any predictions for the election?
We’ll wait and see!