Imran Ahmad Khan: ' I never imagined in my worst nightmare that our democracy would be under threat at home'
Imran Ahmad Khan did not get the easiest of starts when standing for the constituency of Wakefield.
The newly-elected Tory MP only became the candidate in his home city when Antony Calvert - the Conservatives original pick - stepped down following the revelation of problematic social media posts.
But after jumping out of a plane in a video stunt - taking shot at incumbent Labour MP Mary Creagh’s accusation he had been parachuted in - he soon made his name known.
“I’ve never stood for any public office, not even so much as municipal dog catcher,” he told The Yorkshire Post on his second day in Parliament last week.
“But I’ve worked with governments and I’ve advised elected officials in the course of my work overseas, and I thought that was the role I wanted to take but this last Parliament concerned me.
“It made me realise we can only change things if we are on the frontline.”
Mr Khan has worked in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia.
He has advised the United Nations on how to foster peace, but said as he watched from afar he saw the seeds in Britain of the loss of democracy he had seen abroad.
“When I’ve lived and worked in dangerous places, I never imagined in my worst nightmare that our democracy would be under threat at home. It made me so upset,” he said.
“Friends and relatives said stand for it and they were right and her I am.
“I hope to serve the people of Wakefield.”
Born in Wakefield, Mr Khan’s father Dr Saeed Khan was at one point Wakefield’s only dermatologist, working at Pinderfields General Hospital. It was here Dr Khan met Mr Khan’s mother, who was a midwife there.
“It was the story of the pretty nurse and the dashing young doctor,” he joked.
Mr Khan attended Silcoates School in Wakefield and also hold degrees from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow and King’s College London.
But he was keen to stress his roots came not only from Wakefield and the NHS, but also from mining stock.
“My grandmother had been a night sister at the hospital and my grandfather lost four fingers and half his thumb down the mine,” he said.
“When I thought about standing, I only wanted to stand in Wakefield.”
Mr Khan lost out the Mr Calvert in the association pick for the constituency, but “it was very close,” he said, so he was pleased to take over when Mr Calvert had to stand down.
But the 46-year-old said as soon as he hit the campaign trail, he could see why Labour would lose the seat, giving him a real chance.
He said: “First of all they [Labour] no longer represent the working people, they represent the champagne sipping socialists. When you look at at a seat like Wakefield since 1931 it’s only voted Labour.
“And whether the Government here in this place [Parliament] has been Conservative or whatever else since that time, they’ve had Labour representation for the people of Wakefield.
“But Brexit made people see things through a new perspective. What has Labour done for Yorkshire, for Wakefield? So they were all willing to look elsewhere and they began to realise that their loyalty to the Labour Party was not being returned, it was a one way transaction.”
Mr Khan said this was not only true for Wakefield but across Yorkshire and the Humber where Labour lost nine seats, and in those it kept its majorities were drastically slashed.
He said the only Labour MP he felt had true Labour values was Jon Trickett, who represents Hemsworth.
Mr Khan said: “Jon Trickett’s father was taught in the Boys Brigade by my grandfather.
“The old Labour Party was a grand old party. My views on the EU were taught to me by [Tony] Benn in my early teens. I did a TV documentary with Mr Benn on the invasion of Iraq, I hugely admired him, we owe a great debt to him.”
But he said voters had felt Jeremy Corbyn was against the country, pushing them to vote for the Tories.
“The people in Yorkshire and particularly in Wakefield, it’s a fertile ground for patriotism,” he said. “It’s one of the great reservoirs of talent for our Armed Forces.
“They did not like the anti-British tone of Corbyn. It appeared to them that he would stand up for everyone who was an enemy of Britain.
“The Labour Party has moved so far away from the party that they were. I was attacked by two Labour supporters I met when I said I believed Britain’s future is going to be as glorious as it’s past.”
He said while canvassing, one voter had told him exactly why she had switched to the Tories.
He said: “She was telling me she had always voted Labour, never thought she would vote Tory, but she would never vote for anything but Tory now. She said ‘Islington Labour came up into my back yard and said we’re too uneducated to understand something as complex as Brexit’ to her face.
“I believe under Boris Johnson’s leadership this party has taken on the mantle of its grand heritage of libertarianism.”
Now, he said, he would begin by backing Mr Johnson to get the Brexit process under way, and then turn to listening to his constituents about their concerns.
He said: “I have a very simple approach, I’m going to listen to my constituents and try and realise what they want.”
But he urged people to get in touch to tell him what the issues are. “One of the things I found on the doorstep was a general lack of trust in politicians, I want to restore that.”