Simpson still driven to deliver as third term gets under way

David Simpson MP.  INPT21-204.
David Simpson MP. INPT21-204.

You could say David Simpson was a busy man, but ‘busy’ wouldn’t do it justice.

The smallest hint of the newly re-elected MP’s commitments begs the conclusion, from political friend or foe alike, that spare time is in short supply.

Issues local, regional, national and international are stacked long and deep before him as - off the back of a six-month election campaign - he embarks on this third term as Upper Bann MP.

By no means does Mr Simpson come across as a man in search of sympathy, but there is a sense he might consider it useful if the public were to have some concept of the volume of demands, commitments and concerns that compete for any MP’s time, and the regimented scheduling necessary to meet them, the slightest variable enough to derail the entire day.

Mr Simpson has much to set his hand to during the course of the next parliament, too much, even in an ideal world, to bring to conclusion in the coming five years, but that, as much as anything else, he says, is what keeps bringing him back before the electorate in what he calls his desire to deliver.

“Every election reinvigorates you and gives you a new set of goals,” he said. “In this business you have to have the hunger for delivery; when you lose that drive, that impulse, it’s time to get out.

“This was my fourth election and I am very humbled that the people of the constituency decided to put their faith in me for the next five years; with that comes an awesome responsibility.”

David is quick to concede that nothing would be possible without “the team”, chief among them Elaine, his long supportive wife of 35 years, and three now-grown children who, for all that they “pass like ships in the night” thanks to his workload and the demands of their own business interests, remain close-knit and still close to hand as his children embark, or prepare soon to embark, on their own married lives.

Born in Derryscollop, Moy, David moved, at age two, to Derrylee, later attending, in Portadown, The Birches Primary School, Killicomaine Junior High School and “the old Armagh Road Tech’”. He went on to study at Belfast’s College of Business Studies before establishing his own company.

“I started in the agri-food sector 36 years ago,” said the 56-year-old, whose introduction to politics came by way of an interest in youth issues - an interest he maintains to this day through his church, where singing the Gospel is arguably his one concession to broader life outside politics. Struck by survey results showing 75% of respondents in the constituency didn’t know who their elected representatives were, locally or at Westminster - a finding he considered an indictment for any party - he soon thereafter accepted an invitation to throw his own hat into the ring, albeit not without much soul-searching.

“I knew this would change my family’s lives completely,” he said. David unsuccessfully contested the Wesminster election of 2001, but secured a seat on Craigavon Borough Council, for whom he would later serve as both Deputy-Mayor and Mayor.

There followed success in the NI Assembly elections and in the 2005 general election David was returned as member for Upper Bann, ousting the sitting MP, then Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

David recalled of his arrival at Westminster his keen sense of the weight of history bearing down within the mother of parliaments.

“I remember giving my maiden speech, and I was very nervous, facing, as I was, people I had seen on TV for years, great orators and parliamentarians, but they listened, and that was a privilege for me, to stand up and represent Upper Bann.”

Looking ahead to the ambitious programme he is pledged to pursue in parliament, David outlined plans to campaign in the Commons for action on drugs, not least so-called legal highs, which he called “toxic”.

Other pressing issues he has been working on and means to press further include what he descibes as a lack of special-needs provision for over-19s, the introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine for older children, the challenges facing community policing, the pursuit of medical research funding in respect of a number of debilitating and/or life-threatening illnesses, improved nursery school provision, and a wide range of goals in terms of investment, employment and helping local businesses.