“I have designated the basking shark as the one species to attach my name to. Its the natural choice because I was introduced to its plight while on a pre season Football Tournament in the Isle of Man watching my beloved Port Vale play. The then Chief Minister took me aside and asked me to do all in my power to help get endangered species status for this giant of the local marine life. I followed this request up to the best of my ability and my campaign ended with protected species status in Isle of Man waters, then the UK, and finally internationally through the CITES agreement. I was awarded a special commendation at the annual Tynwold for my role in securing this protected species status.
At home in Stoke at the following general election I was ridiculed by my conservative opponent for having stood up for the basking shark. He claimed it was a sign of my lack of concern and compassion for the people of Stoke on Trent. What he failed to realise is that nature is interlinked and even Staffordshire is not a marine coastal area, wildlife and nature protection matters whichever part of the world we happen to live in.
Despite their size, we still don’t know a lot about the basking shark, but for me the species represents all creatures and wildlife great or small threatened with extinction. Whether it is standing up and giving a voice to the basking shark or protecting the skylarks here in Staffordshire I am in no doubt as to the urgency, understanding and awareness which is now needed to protect our beautiful planet.