We sat down with Kevin Bonavia for his first interview since being selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage.

Mr Bonavia, 45, was born in Malta before his family moved to the UK when he was eight. His dad worked as a cab driver here, before his parents started a café and then a video rental store.

He describes it as a "working class background but also [his parents] were entrepreneurs in their own way".

After attending Catholic primary schools - he still describes himself as Catholic, "not 100 per cent practising but I go to mass from time to time" - he received a bursary to a private secondary school in Eltham, southeast London.


As a teenager, Mr Bonavia had a series of part-time jobs, including helping his dad, who "used to rent umbrellas and boats on the beach in Malta".

He then read History at the University of Birmingham, before attending the College of Law in London to become a solicitor.

After university, he began a career as a litigator, specialising in cases involving "fraud in all its forms" - in the last few years, he's worked on cases that are part of the phone hacking scandal.


It was at university that Mr Bonavia joined Labour - just before Tony Blair led the party to a landslide victory in the 1997 General Election.

"I've always thought the Labour party is the party of aspiration.

"You want to help everyone achieve their potential, but make sure that when you do achieve your potential you don't forget where you've come from.

"When you get up the ladder, you don't push the ladder away."

The Comet: Kevin Bonavia (centre) after being selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage.Kevin Bonavia (centre) after being selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage. (Image: Labour Party)

His maternal grandfather, a ship-welder in Glasgow, "instilled in [him] this idea that change doesn't happen unless you fight for it".

"And many of the things in this country that have come about, whether it's women's votes, the NHS, workers' rights, because people have campaigned for it and voted for it - Labour governments have made it happen," he said.

Mr Bonavia became a councillor in Lewisham in 2010, stepping down last year. He was Labour's parliamentary candidate for Rochford & Southend East in 2010, and for Clacton in 2019, coming second on both occasions.

Having previously opposed Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, Mr Bonavia is "very proud to be in a party" led by Keir Starmer.

"He's making the party look and sound sensible, which is what people want. He's also very calm, which is what we need after the years of chaos we've had."


Mr Bonavia came to Stevenage for the first time about 14 years ago, for a Labour event at the Holiday Inn. And it was about a year ago that he began thinking Stevenage might be the one, as he looked to "move on from being a councillor".

"Stevenage has always been in living memory a place on the frontline of politics - governments are decided in places like Stevenage."

The Comet: Kevin Bonavia on a visit to Lister Hospital with Labour leader Keir Starmer (left).Kevin Bonavia on a visit to Lister Hospital with Labour leader Keir Starmer (left). (Image: Labour Party)

He came here to campaign, and after spending more time in the town, moved to Stevenage last year before being selected as Labour's candidate.

He points to Stevenage's strengths, including its "major enterprises", its national transport links, and being "surrounded by great countryside and villages".

His favourite thing about the town is how green it is - "we just need now to think about how we adapt that and protect and improve it for future generations".

Away from politics, football is his favourite sport - he supports the Boro', and is also a Tottenham fan, "which has gone down well with a lot of people but not all people" - and he's also interested in the arts, being a trustee of a charity called Talk About Arts.

Being a local MP

When asked if he would ever take up a second job as an MP, Kevin says: "No. You can't do it, you really can't".

He also commits to holding regular advice surgeries, and is already sitting in on surgeries offered by councillors.

However, he does say that he would "use to the full" the office allowance that MPs are entitled to "because I believe in making sure that MPs are well-supported in their staff, and who are well-paid, who can then really help the MP do their job properly".

"The people of Stevenage are entitled to expect to have their MP available when they need their MP."

"Advice surgeries - where are they? Something is missing in this town - an MP is missing," he continued.

The Comet: Stephen McPartland has been Stevenage's MP since 2010.Stephen McPartland has been Stevenage's MP since 2010. (Image: Will Durrant)

He criticises a lack of communication from current MP Stephen McPartland, especially on his social media channels.

Mr Bonavia has launched a webpage directing residents to support in dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, and says: "That's the kind of thing an MP should be doing."


When asked which issues he would focus on if elected as MP, he gives several - housing, the "climate emergency", transport, and the cost-of-living crisis. He picks the latter as "the most important" of those issues.

"I would see my role in helping to push for government action on that.

"The other job would be to relate to the government what is particularly happening to my constituency, and if there are specific issues that we need to raise."

He describes the housing crisis as "huge", and criticises the 1980s right-to-buy legislation that allowed people to buy their council homes at discount prices.

He says that "while that's great for families who wanted to aspire to own their own homes", it's had knock-on effects including the rise of poorly maintained and expensive houses of multiple occupation.

"We need new legislation on the way the private rental market works and we also need to give councils proper powers and funding to actually buy and, where they can, in the right places, build affordable homes."

The Comet: Kevin Bonavia (right) viewing surgical robots at Stevenage's Lister Hospital.Kevin Bonavia (right) viewing surgical robots at Stevenage's Lister Hospital. (Image: Labour party)

On the "climate emergency", Mr Bonavia says "we've got a government that blows hot and cold all the time". He wants "a national insulation programme that would keep down bills and mean people were emitting less".

However, he's against protests such as those by Just Stop Oil last year.

"If you want real change, disrupting people's lives like that, I'm afraid, doesn't help your cause.

"If you want to change things, you need to acquire power, and that's where voting matters."

The refugee crisis is another issue close to Mr Bonavia's heart - he helped make Lewisham the UK's first borough of sanctuary for refugees.

He says that was a "popular" decision, and that it "should be popular when you humanise a situation rather than talk about numbers all the time".

"The issues come when there's a perception that there's unfairness, that somebody's getting special treatment.

He thinks Stevenage is a place where there is a "welcome" for refugees "in many, many ways", mentioning those "providing homes for people from Ukraine, or getting donations for people stuck in the hotels".

"We could start thinking about, instead of people being threats, how do we actually see people being an opportunity."

Quick-fire questions

Beer or wine? Beer

Question Time or Strictly? Question Time 

Lib Dems or Greens? That’s a total pass 

Monarchy or republic? Monarchy 

Who is your political idol? Clement Attlee 

What’s in your supermarket meal deal? Tuna sandwich, orange juice, apple 

Stephen McPartland did not respond to a request for comment on this article.