My background and values
I live in a flat in West Hampstead with my husband Chris, a short walk from my office on Kilburn High Road. My parents were married in Kilburn some forty years ago and I have spent my weekends campaigning here since I was 16, fighting to save our local hospitals, fire stations and post offices. This is the area that inspires me and that I want to represent in Parliament.
My politics are based on my experience of life in our area. I was previously a local councillor and Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities in Camden council; you can see a list of some of my roles in the local community further down this page. One of my main responsibilities in Cabinet was being in charge of our much loved community centres and libraries. In the face of huge government cuts, I worked with the community and library users to save our libraries for future generations.
I also oversaw Camden’s engagement with the 2012 London Olympics, which saw the launch of three legacy schemes to encourage more physical activities, Camden Sports Academy, School and Community Games, and Pro-Active Ambassadors.
I’m very proud to have been part of a Cabinet which improved the free childcare offer for parents in Camden, undertook the Community Investment Programme to support local schools, and pledged to build more housing, tackling the over-crowding in the borough.
I spent some of my early childhood in Asia, where I saw first-hand the impact that poverty can have on people’s life chances. It has made me determined to help the most vulnerable and fight for social mobility. My firm belief in standing up for workers’ rights means I have been a proud union member for over ten years.
My early work at Amnesty International gave me an opportunity to see these values in action, as I worked on issues related to people trafficking and modern-day slavery. I was inspired by my colleagues’ determination in the face of violent opposition and sullen apathy in equal measure; I also became keenly aware of how much it takes to make a difference.
Prior to becoming Labour’s candidate here, I most recently worked for Brunswick Group LLP in corporate social responsibility, working with major British manufacturers and transport companies to strengthen their use of apprenticeship schemes and build on links with local communities and schools.
As Labour’s candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn
Since being selected as Labour’s candidate for the 2015 General Election, it has been an honour to spend so much time with local residents. I have a team of fantastic volunteers and organisers, with whom I knock on doors and talk with residents about local issues and national political choices several times a week. As a team, we’ve been able to have more than twenty thousand conversations with locals in the last eighteen months. (If you want to join us, you’re very welcome at any time!)
Through these conversations and other channels, I have learned about many serious local issues that are causing concern. Wherever possible, I support or set up campaigns to tackle these issues. Even where all I can do is bring the issue to the attention of the right people (maybe apply a little pressure), it’s been fantastic where it works.
For instance, it is a testimony to the great work of many local campaigners that an ill-thought-out 24-storey building in Swiss Cottage was rejected. As another example, while we’ve not yet been able to stop HS2 completely, we’ve successfully fought for planning amendments and improved compensation for many Camden residents.
Of course, not every campaign can be successful. Despite furious efforts, and a fairly public altercation between Boris Johnson and me, we couldn’t save Belsize Fire Station from the mayor’s cuts. We also did not succeed in our campaign to save the Crown Post Office in Swiss Cottage, which I worked on with CWU, local residents and post office staff. But if fear of failure stopped us from standing up for what we believe in, then I want no part of it.
And it’s a great deal of fun being in Hampstead and Kilburn as well! Late 2014 alone has had me seeing fire spinning at the South Kilburn Winter Festival, doing Q&A on politics with Emmanuel School primary children, meeting the staff at the Royal Free Hospital Children’s School, speaking at the Winter Warmer event for the over 50s at Abbey Community Centre, attending the Fresher’s Fair at Hampstead School, hosting a dialogue between authors Ken Follett and Marina Lewycka at Queen’s Park Community School, supporting the WAC Arts Fundraiser, the Kensal Rise Library Fundraiser, the Mitzvah Day singalong, and far too many more to mention.
I receive several hundred queries, emails or casework requests a week, and hold an advice surgery at my office in Kilburn High Road approximately once a fortnight. I take these interactions very seriously and work closely with our local councillors to resolve common problems like overcrowding or dilapidated council housing. For problems relating to immigration or national issues, I engage our local MP or the relevant minister.
I am often asked how I would have voted on various bills that have been in the House of Commons over the last year or so. Here is a selection of the bills that I have been asked about, and how I would have voted:
- 17 December 2014 – Housing Benefit (Abolition of Social Sector Size Criteria) [Yes, to abolish the bedroom tax]
- 16 December 2014 – Equal Pay (Transparency) [Yes]
- 21 November 2014 – National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill — Second Reading [Yes, Clive Efford MP's Private Member's Bill to safeguard the NHS]
- 27 October 2014 – Recall of MPs Bill [Yes]
- 5 September 2014 – Affordable Homes Bill — Second Reading — Housing Benefit Penalty for Those Deemed to Have Excess Bedrooms — Exemptions [Yes]
- 25 March 2014 – March 2014 Budget [No]
- 15 January 2014 – Banking — National Minimum Wage [Yes]
- 8 Jan 2014 – Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and Betting Shops [Yes]
- 31 October 2013 – High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill — Third Reading [No]
Through various roles in the local community, I have gained learned more about people’s diverse priorities and needs, understanding better what they want from their MP. The roles have included:
- Governor at Emmanuel Primary School [current]
- Governor at Granville Plus Nursery [current]
- Observer on the WAC Arts Board [current]
- Trustee of Camden Arts Centre [current]
- Trustee of the Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust [current]
- Trustee of the Swiss Cottage Community Centre [current]
- Trustee of the Abbey Community Centre [current]
- Governor at the Working Men’s College [current]
- Local Camden Councillor and Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities
- Chair of the Camden Library Network
- Governor at Richard Cobden Primary School
- Governor on the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust
- Chair of the Camden Faith Leaders’ Forum
- Trustee of West Euston Partnership
I know how Parliament works and have spent most of the last decade working at a national level in a variety of part-time and full-time roles:
- Policy adviser to Dame Tessa Jowell MP
- Deputy field director for Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign
- Press officer for London Labour Party
- Researcher at Philip Gould Associates
- Researcher for the Greater London Authority
- Caseworker for Harry Cohen MP