This is my complete surprise for 2017. I am now the Liberal Democrat candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green, taking on one of the UK’s most infamous politicians, Iain Duncan Smith (IDS). He has held the seat for decades and is an arch-Brexiteer. He was an unloved minister for works and pensions yet that still didn’t stop him getting re-elected election after election. There are many, from centre to very left, who would not be sorry to see him unseated.
His Tory constituents are many — he has always won around 50% of the vote — but in the EU referendum they voted narrowly to Remain. I will do my best to persuade the remainers that I am their best bet. I’m also a good listener, can get things done and would work hard in Westminster for everyone in Chingford and Woodford Green. That goes without saying!
The good news for the voters is that I am not a career politician. I am committed to the principles that the Liberal Democrats represent: openness, tolerance and keeping Britain in the European Union. I have voted Lib Dem all my life but only joined the party in May 2015 just before the election. I joined because I believed it was important to make a stand.
The results of the 2015 election were upsetting as the Lib Dems lost so many seats but I decided then to become more active. The #libdemfightback is so important to me.
I was truly appalled by the tenor of the Europe referendum campaign – particularly the blatant lies of the Brexiteers – and the result. It was also then that I decided to become a parliamentary candidate.
In February this year I joined another three prospective candidates at an assessment day at Lib Dem HQ in central London. The following week I was on the approved list and thought I had until 2020 to think about finding a seat and bone up on my candidate skills. Then Teresa May called a snap election and things changed.
I was called late on the 6 May and asked if I would stand. The party needed someone to challenge IDS and the previous candidate was out of the country. Two days later, on my 58th birthday, I was sitting in a Costa Coffee near Walthamstow Central, opposite Jamie Cook, my soon-to-be agent, signing the relevant papers.
So far I have walked the streets with Ben Sims, the Lib Dem candidate for Leyton and Wanstead. We knocked on doors, defended the Lib Dem position on Brexit and the legalisation of cannabis. A few people refused to speak to us; others were happy to engage. We even persuaded some don’t knows.
I was at the launch of the Lib Dem manifesto on 17 May and heard an impassioned speech by Tim Farron, the party leader about voting for your principles and allowing the people of the UK to decide on what kind of Brexit deal the Tories put forward. If we don’t like it, we should be given the chance to vote against it.
Being a candidate will be my life for the next three weeks until 8 June. Then, if I haven’t toppled IDS, it will be back to fighting corruption.
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