As a boy, Alan Mak grew up above a Chinese takeaway. His eyes light up when he speaks of watching his parents scrub and cook dishes all night to provide a better life for their children. He inherited this tendency towards working hard. He did so in tests, and got a scholarship to a good ‘PGS type school’, and certainly made the most of it – having studied law at both Oxford and Cambridge. After a successful careers in both the private and social sector, he is now – at the tender age of 31 - the MP for Havant.
Educated at Oxbridge, a career in corporate law, parachuted into a safe seat with no local connections: it would be easy to caricature him as ‘yet another career politician.’ To a certain extent this caricature is accurate; he is rumoured to deliberately sit behind the Prime Minister at PMQs, and apparently sent his Maiden Speech to Downing Street. Beyond such activities (which he dismissed as ‘tittle tattle’), there is the accusation he deceived his constituency selection panel on Europe - claiming he was Eurosceptic to the local association, before supporting the In camp. There are also the odd rumours that he exaggerated both endorsements from national newspapers and his church attendance, and fiddled his expenses while Ents Officer of the Cambridge Union. One could therefore have forgiven the PGS students for thinking we were meeting a Frank Underwood-Machiavelli character who was just not very successful at covering his tracks.
Fortunately, however, this was not the case.
Mak is undoubtedly a charming man, and was at ease when answering our questions. Sometimes, too relaxed. On the EU, Google’s sweetheart tax deal, and the Tory leadership election, he parroted the responses of Cameron and co. Sometimes the conversation lapsed into verbal tetris, where he would awkwardly fit memorised lines alongside any given blocks of context. It was at these points in the interview that we all had our doubts, beginning to believe Havant had just elected a talking computer. However, for what Mak underperforms in ideological originality, he makes up for in action. Released from the newsspeak of the Tory manifesto, he rattled off his repertoire of local initiatives – from his jobs fair, to the Havant Headstart scheme and the newly introduced Community Action Awards. He has even been willing to exert his soft power as an MP, working with Stagecoach to create discounts for local students. He has thrown himself into the Havant community – from making his debut for Havant hockey, to visiting almost every school in the constituency.
Mak explained he believed in action, not just empty debate. Upon understanding this, there is a subtler explanation to his Tory party loyalty: it is not done out of laziness, but because he believes to make things happen one needs to be part of a cohesive team. When asked if he had ever rebelled he replied ‘no’, not unusual for a new MP, but when asked if he could see himself rebelling, he also said ‘no.’ Very unusual for any MP, especially a backbencher. The reason? Cut him and he might just bleed blue – it would match his cufflinks and tie. There is no doubt he is a party man, and little ambiguity over his ambitions for a ministerial role in the future. The real question mark lies over who he will be supported in the upcoming Tory leadership election; while his loyalty to the current party establishment might say Osborne, the temptation of a faster rise up the greasy pole might lure him into Camp Boris. Depending on how Mak plays his hand, and future internal Tory party politics, Britain might join Havant in learning more about this new MP.