My part in our community
I have been active in our local community for 15 years.
I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1991. I joined as soon as I moved to England – I wanted to but could not join before because you were not allowed to be a member in Northern Ireland. I have been an active member of the local party throughout my time in this area, and have been Chair of Camden Labour Party since 2008.
I was a councillor in Camden for 4 years. I was executive member for Housing and led the fight for more investment in Council Housing, as well as a fairer deal for Leaseholders, Housing Association tenants and tenants in private properties. I was also the Deputy Chair for Housing for London Councils. I helped secure the funding for the Chalcot estste
I became Leader in 2005, and was the first ever minority ethnic leader of Camden Council. My core focus was inequality in our community
I faced some serious challenges as Leader, including the need to protect and promote community cohesion in the aftermath of the July 2005 bombings. We organised meetings across the borough with members of all communities to seek to reassure everyone, and particularly the BME community, that we were serious about responding to their concerns. We then co-authored a nationally recognised IPPR report about the importance of social cohesion, which provided a template for working together to protect our diversity.
I was passionately opposed to the Iraq war, and spoke out against it at the time when many others were silent. Going to war was a huge injustice; it was a terrible mistake by the Labour Party but far more importantly it was, and continues to be, a tragedy for the people of Iraq.
I am committed to state education, and have been a Governor at Haverstock School since 2007. I recently became Chair of Governors. Haverstock School is on Haverstock Hill in Camden. Its strategy is simple: to provide the best education for your child. In my time on the board we have instituted changes to focus on improving the school and, while achievement should not solely be shown through exam results, we were proud to achieve the best GCSE results in our history last year.
I have been on the Board of Queens Crescent Community Centre since 2007. QCCA aims to foster social cohesion by promoting grass roots initiatives, aiming to empower local residents, challenge disadvantage and improve the quality of life of everyone in the community. I have played a critical role in steering the centre to being one of the best in the area, and we have dramatically increased the services available, so it now includes a range of community services for children, young people and the rest of the community.
I brought the charity Just for Kids to Camden, arranging for them to have free space at Hodge Jones & Allen. Helena Kennedy QC says “I think Just for Kids Law is a most remarkable new kid on the block, an inspirational social invention in the law where innovation is rare”. I think that sums it up beautifully.