Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work. This month we feature Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath
As Member of Parliament for Bath, I want to bring people together and make things happen. Life in this city is not easy for everybody and my aim is that this is a good place not just for those who can easily afford it, but also for those who struggle financially, physically, mentally or in any other form. Bath has a great community spirit. People care about each other – that is what I like most about our city.
I am German by birth and grew up in Hanover. I first got involved in politics while at school. I campaigned with the anti-nuclear movement when a disused salt mine near Hanover was earmarked as a permanent nuclear waste storage facility. ‘Nuclear Power – no thanks’ is important to me to this day.
After studying art in Münster and Paris, I moved to Berlin. It was there I met William, who is British, and we married in 1989. Two months after we got married the Berlin Wall fell. Europe changed from being a continent overshadowed by the Cold War to being a place embracing peace and freedom. In 1990, we moved to Liverpool, where all our four children were born. While being a mum I continued to paint and exhibit, opening an art gallery in the centre of Liverpool as part of the regeneration ‘between the two cathedrals’.
Nine years later our family moved to Rochdale to be closer to William’s industrial textile business, and I became involved in politics again. I was elected as a councillor in 2004, and quickly learnt that if you bring together many allies and persist for a long time, you achieve things for your community.
In 2014, William and I moved to Bath. I stood against Jacob Rees-Mogg in the 2015 General Election and from the beginning of 2016 was a lead member of the Bath ‘Stronger In’ campaign to keep Britain in the EU. Our defeat in the referendum was a profound blow, but within two weeks like-minded pro-Europeans and I set up Bath for Europe to organise demonstrations and events which highlight the benefits of the EU and the vital part it has played for Britain’s peace and prosperity.
Becoming Bath’s first female MP came out of the blue. Not only was the election a surprise, but I was only selected as the Lib Dem candidate 38 days before polling day.
My life is now divided between Bath and London. A lot of MPs find the House of Commons and the way parliament works quite tedious or intimidating. But I love to debate and enjoy the competition of ideas. The biggest challenge for an MP is the enormous number of issues you can get involved in, and you need to focus your energy on very specific issues and actually deliver results, rather than dabbling in everything.
There are always obstacles to change – not just vested interests but inbuilt structures and ways of working which people get stuck in. However, Bath is brimming with ideas. It is a place full of people who are getting involved in their communities and wanting to move things on. Debate and community activism are part of the fabric of Bath and that is why I immediately loved living here. I am here for, and with, the people of Bath; together we can achieve things.
PORTRAIT: Neill Menneer at Spirit Photographic.
Visit: capturethespirit.co.uk, tel: 01225 483151