The new Lib Dem candidate seeking to become Berwick’s next MP has vowed to follow her predecessor’s example by listening to the voters.
After being announced as Sir Alan Beith’s replacement, Julie Pörksen also picked out affordable housing and the increasingly difficult transition from education to the workplace as key issues to be addressed.
The agricultural economist and Liberal Democrat campaigner from Hepscott near Morpeth knows she has a very hard act to follow – Sir Alan has held the seat since 1973 – as the party’s candidate for the next general election. But she sees his experience and qualities as valuable assets.
She explained: “Every time I meet a constituent they really value something about Sir Alan that rarely gets in the press – the fact that he has helped so many people who come to him with problems. It’s very important to have an MP who listens to people and helps them, and also work on the big issues.
“The most important thing I could do as a candidate and, hopefully, as an elected MP, would be to listen to people and help them.”
Ms Pörksen will be defending a narrow majority of 2,700 over Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan in 2015.
Party strategists are hoping that the selection of a similar candidate will remove any advantage the Tories thought they may have had going into 2015.
It means the top two parties will both be represented by a young, local mum who has a business background. It also means Berwick will almost certainly have a female MP for the first time in 2015.
Brought up in Belsay, Ms Pörksen now lives in Hepscott near Morpeth but says she would move north, back into the constituency, if elected.
“This constituency has a lot of priorities,” she added. “They are different in every single community we have.
“One of the really key issues is that it is very expensive to live in north Northumberland. The cost of housing, particularly, is very prohibitive, and many of the jobs, if they’re available, are low paid. So I think we can do a lot to have affordable housing where people live and work.”
In the town of Berwick she believes more can be done to help young people move from school into work.
“It is so far to the nearest higher education [facility]. A lot of people don’t have a successful transition from school into work and I think there’s a lot can be done to help young people make that transition.”
JULIE PÖRKSEN FACTFILE
Brought up in Belsay, she is a farmer’s daughter and party campaigner from Hepscott.
Married with two children.
After studying, she taught agricultural economics in Aberdeen. Moving to Peru, she fought for the rights of agricultural workers. Back in the UK, she worked in business before returning to international development.
During the May election, Ms Pörksen missed out on becoming Northumberland County Councillor for Amble West with Warkworth by a single vote.