Conservative Mike Freer: ‘My childhood home was like Coronation Street’
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
With just under three weeks left until the general election, Conservative Mike Freer is locked in a fierce battle with Labour’s Sarah Sackman for re-election as Finchley and Golders Green MP. Tim Lamden caught up with Mr Freer ahead of the May 7 election.
Mike Freer’s story reads like a Conservative Party manual on how to climb the ladder in life.
The 54-year-old is proud of his working class roots and even prouder of the hard graft that took him away from the terraces of Manchester and into Westminster’s corridors of power.
He has built a tidy property portfolio over the years – with three properties in his constituency and a holiday home in southern France – and is bemused by the criticism this has attracted.
“I get flak about my properties but I earned them,” he said. “Everything I’ve got is through hard work.
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“My uncle was a miner and dad was a Tony Benn supporter. I’m state-educated, I wasn’t raised in a multimillion pound house or private-schooled and didn’t go to Oxford.
“I was raised in a Coronation Street-style terrace. We had no indoor loo and no bath. One of my first memories was having a bath with my dad in a tin bath.”
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Mr Freer arrived at conservatism as a 15-year-old affronted by the forced conversion of his school, Chadderton Grammar School, in Oldham, Manchester, into a comprehensive under Labour.
“I loved my school and I remember my headteacher crying,” he said. “He was tough as boots and he was crying because his school was being destroyed. It was being merged with a super comp nearby.
“It awakened me and got me interested in politics. I realised, ‘This isn’t right what is happening to my school. This is my opportunity to climb the ladder.’
“I thought, ‘I just want to get on and work hard and the government should just get out of the way.’
“My view is we support those who need help and we give others the opportunities to get on.”
Mr Freer studied accounting and business law at the University of Stirling, in Scotland, but never graduated after glandular fever stopped him sitting his final exams.
But this did not hinder a commercial career which brought Mr Freer to London as a regional manager for the Pizza Hut restaurant chain.
After a number of catering management roles, he eventually joined a lucrative management consultancy firm and by 1990 he was elected as a Barnet councillor.
He lost his seat in 1994 but was re-elected as a councillor at a 2001 by-election, at which point he was working for Barclays bank, and rose to leader of the council in 2006, serving until 2009 before his election as Finchley and Golders Green MP in 2010.
Mr Freer points to long-awaited improvements to traffic flow at Henlys Corner and the government’s pledge to invest £11million in extra security for Jewish premises as high points over the last five years.
He was also celebrated for his moving speech in the Commons in support of gay marriage – he married his long-term partner Angelo Crolla in January – and notably resigned from his role in government in October to vote against the backbench motion recognising a Palestinian state.
But above all, Mr Freer believes his strength lies in his day-to-day work as a constituency MP.
“Whatever people say about me, they can’t say I don’t cut through the crap and get things done,” he said.
“I love the constituency side. It’s very rewarding when a resident has been banging their head against officialdom and you get a result for them.”