New Sheffield MP Harry Harpham: ‘Parliament is something else, I still get lost’

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If you had told a 16-year-old Harry Harpham he would one day be sitting in Westminster as MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough he would have laughed you out of the room.

His journey from digging coal down the pit to strolling the corridors of power in Parliament hasn’t been the most direct of routes to becoming a politician - and he is still pinching himself.

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament

“It’s so surreal,” says the former Sheffield Council deputy leader.

“If somebody had told me as a 16-year-old starting down the pit that one day I’d end up representing a constituency sitting on the green benches at the heart of democracy, there would have been a few choice words and I’d have never of believed it.”

Talking to a miner on his second day down the pit, Harry was given a copy of ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’ – and admits the book ‘fired his enthusiasm’ for politics.

Harry then became active in the NUM, joined the Labour party, went on strike for a year in Nottinghamshire and said he had ‘a second chance’ at education when he moved to Sheffield in 1988.

Harry Harpham in his London office

Harry Harpham in his London office

After gaining a degree at Sheffield University as a mature student still active in the Labour party, he was asked to stand as a councillor in 2000.

Now, 15 years later, the former miner is a member of parliament. Just more than a month after his election, Harry is still trying to come to terms with the weird wacky world of Westminster politics.

“It’s something else.” he says. “I was a councillor for a few years, but this is just completely different.

“Some of the traditions that come with it are difficult to understand and just trying to find your way around the place is incredible – I still get lost.”

Harry Harpham in his London office being interviewed by George Torr

Harry Harpham in his London office being interviewed by George Torr

With big shoes to fill after former Home Secretary David Blunkett stood down from the seat, Harry is coming to terms with the size of the task.

“I want to give Brightside and Hillsborough a fair deal, because it’s one of the most deprived constituencies in the country,” he says.

“At the end of the street where I live in Sheffield there is a food bank that is mushrooming with the amount of people using it. These are the issues I want to be tackling.”

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament