On the 28 February, Holly did an interview with the Halifax Courier answering readers questions about her political life, heroes, the new swimming pool and Brexit.
Why did you decide to get into politics?
I certainly didn’t have ambitions of becoming a politician growing up, but I became increasingly involved in the Labour Party after university.
I’m someone who won’t let it go if things are unfair or if you can see how something could be and should be changed for the better, and so when the opportunity came up to put myself forward to be Labour’s candidate in 2015, just three months before the election it, I decided to go for it.
It was a big decision and I was 27 at the time, which is still young to be an MP, but it was a chance to be able to make a difference for my hometown and so I got over the nerves and got stuck in.
What are the best and worst bits about being an MP?
There is no job description for an MP, which is both a gift and a curse. It means you have some flexibility to focus on the things you think are important and do they job in the way you think it should be done. However it also means people can tell you you’re doing it wrong!
I represent just over 100,000 people in Halifax and needless to say, everyone has slightly different views and opinions, and the rise in social media can make navigating some of that a challenge.
I think if you are transparent, accessible, work hard and have integrity to your decision making and recognise that you won’t please everyone (some views you are there to challenge!) then you can hold your head high.
But it also gives you the chance to do things you never thought possible. I have been to meetings at the White House and the Pentagon for example and every day my team and I solve problems for local people.
Who is your political hero?
It’s a cliché but Bobby Kennedy. I think he was fearless in his campaign for social justice. Not someone who enjoyed the limelight or craved power like some of the other notable members of his infamous family, but someone who recognised that to be in power was the only means of delivering social justice, equality and fairness.
How did you feel the first time you stood up to speak in the House of Commons?
Terrified! You sit there for hours waiting for your turn to speak.
It’s actually worse the second speech you make because it’s etiquette that no-one intervenes on maiden speeches but after that you’re fair game for interventions from MPs agreeing or disagreeing with what you say. The same can be said for your first speech from the despatch box.
You represent the whole of your party on an issue when you speak from the despatch box as a shadow Minister, with MPs opposite intervening and ‘heckling from a sedentary position’ as the Speaker would say!
Would you even consider joining the Conservative party?
Quite simply – definitely not!
Why did you vote to try and stop Brexit when the majority of constituents voted to leave the EU?
I very much understood that 58 per cent of people in Calderdale voted to leave the EU which in any democracy really matters. The votes for MPs in the House of Commons weren’t on whether we should leave or not, but on whether the terms of the deal after leaving the EU were good enough and if they were what was promised to the country, by those who wanted to leave.
The deal wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t what was promised. I couldn’t hand on heart vote to say that it was when I could see that the deal before us would negatively impact on Halifax businesses and jobs.
Every week, even now, Halifax businesses contact me to say that their costs have gone up and they have more barriers to trade since Brexit.
We all have a responsibility to make Brexit work, but so much for ‘oven ready’ and £350 million a week for the NHS.
What are your views on the plans for the new swimming pool in Halifax, and the fact that the synchronised swimming team say it is not deep enough for them to train in any more?
It’s really sad that the requirements of the synchronised swimming team were not able to be met with the plans for the new pool. However, I’m acutely aware of how prohibitive the timeframe and the budget for the project are as the council has strived to meet Government’s demands.
The rapidly increasing cost of building materials combined with inflation will be a constant challenge as we move to build the new sports centre at pace and an issue we still might need to return to with the Government.
I really hope the synchronised swimming team are able to find alternative venues and continue to compete.
What do you think about the recent increase in parking charges in Halifax town centre?
I know Calderdale Council undertook a full analysis before introducing the parking charges which they feel are competitive when compared with other towns.
Halifax has a lot to offer and encouraging people to use public and active transport was a part of the reasoning.
In an ideal world, it would be nice to do away with parking charges but funding to councils from central Government has been cut by nearly 40 per cent since 2010, so every penny the council is able to make is desperately needed.