Politics

Meet The Former Army Colonel-Turned-MP

Tory MP James Sunderland has spoken to Forces News about his move from Sandhurst to Westminster and what must be done for the Armed Forces.

Forces News has been speaking to former British Army colonel-turned-MP James Sunderland.

The Conservative MP for Bracknell did 26 years of commissioned service with the Royal Logistic Corps, serving in Bosnia, the Falklands and Iraq, while also being a part of the Army's motorsport team as a co-driver.

But politics was calling and in 2019, less than a month after being discharged from the military, he won the Bracknell seat with a near 20,000 majority - making him the joint most senior veteran in parliament.

"It [politics] was an itch, that became a scratch and then it became a festering sore and I realised, probably in my mid-40s having handed over the regiment in 2016, that it was now or never," he said.

"So I applied for the Parliamentary Assessment Board with the Conservative party, did about five years of quite hard work... so when the call came I was sitting at my office at Sandhurst in November last year - got this strange call from central office: 'James, good morning, would you like to run for Bracknell?' - 'yes, please!'."

He added: "In terms of now, I'm very much still - in my head - I think, a serving officer but wearing civilian clothing, doing a different job but still serving the country."

Mr Sunderland (left) did 26 years of commissioned service with the Royal Logistic Corps, serving in Bosnia, the Falklands and Iraq.

With work on the Government's Integrated Review into defence and foreign policy underway, Mr Sunderland said he wants to use his experience to infuence, with the review the perfect opportunity.

"I’m very keen to make sure that the deal is the right one for the Armed Forces – there's concern in the media at the moment," he said.

"I have an idea of what’s coming – obviously I can’t reveal that to you at the moment but my confidence has been sought over this important bit of work.

"The important thing for me is that – defence is not well represented in Westminster – and what I mean by that is the vast majority of the MPs in the House of Commons do not fully understand what we’re dealing with, so it's the persistent engagement on a daily basis, it's the sub-threshold activity that we are engaged with at the moment."

He added: "I’m very keen to ensure the Government doesn’t see the MOD [Ministry of Defence] as a cash cow – it sees it fulfilling a very important role with very, very important defence outputs – keeping our country safe."

When asked of the similarities between the Army and politics, he said "it’'s more of the same for me – it's an institution, it's very different to the Army – this place is dysfunctional, it’s bonkers in so many ways."

"I miss the order and the camaraderie and the unifying purpose that you get in the Forces – but I hope to bring some of that here if I can."

Looking to the future, the former colonel said he has other interests too such as special needs education and 'Global Britain'.

"It's about being useful and credible and influential in a whole range of issues," he said.

"If I can perhaps use some of my experience in Government I’d be very happy to consider that."