New Podcast: A Birdwatcher in Parliament | Sir John Randall

Sir John Randall was elected the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge in 1997. During his political career he firmly opposed the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War (he was the first Conservative MP to resign over it), worked to tackle modern slavery, was a champion of marine conservation, fought to end the wild bird trade, and sat on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee and its Environment Sub-Committee. He was – and still is – strongly against the expansion of Heathrow Airport. In 2010 he was appointed joint Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household in the Coalition Government. He stood down from the government after a reshuffle in 2013 and announced in 2014 that he would not stand for re-election.

A life-long birdwatcher, John was a well-respected tour leader for many years and has sat on the RSPB Council. He was also notable for his ornithological references in parliament and his efforts to help young birders and conservationists gain access to the ‘corridors of power’. He became a special environment adviser to then prime-minister Theresa May in 2015 – remaining in that role until May was replaced by Boris Johnson in 2019. John was knighted in 2014, and in June 2018, he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Randall of Uxbridge.

My name is Charlie Moores and I had the opportunity to chat with John in October 2019. It’s often difficult to work out exactly where to start a conversation with someone who has achieved so much in so many roles, but I remembered a far-sighted speech that John had given in 2015 asking Parliament for leave to introduce a Bill “to set biodiversity and other targets for 2040; to establish a Natural Capital Committee; to require local authorities to maintain local ecological network strategies; to identify species threatened with extinction; to make provision for access to high quality natural green space; and to include education about the natural environment in the curriculum for maintained schools.”

We covered a range of topics from whether lobbyists have too much power and seeing Kirtland’s Warbler as a conservation model to starting a new ‘Wild Party’, but that speech seemed a pretty good place to start….

The podcast is on Lush Player and can be heard here