My experience in politics and as a leading radical civil liberties lawyer has taught me what it takes to lead on the national stage.
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 have been shortlisted for Advocate of the Year by the Law Society in the last two years in a row and was honoured to be awarded Criminal Legal Aid Solicitor of the Year in 2012. I have represented clients arrested in every major protest since 2009. I represented members of UKUncut arrested in Fortnum and Mason during a non-violent protest against tax avoidance, and succeeded in getting all but one of them acquitted. I was also proud to be the advocate for protesters at the DSEi arms fairs, and Critical Mass cyclists arrested in 2012.
These cases have had national significance – helping to define the right to free speech and to protest in the UK.
I have worked in numerous voluntary roles with national importance. While at the Royal Free, I was part of a Board which put systems in place to reduce mortality, and the Royal Free now has the lowest mortality rates in the whole country. Whilst on the board, I supported the re-organistaion of stroke services in London that has saved 100 people every year through an imporoved service.
I am a board member of a national charity; Freedom from Torture, formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. Freedom from Torture has been working for more than 25 years to provide direct clinical services to survivors of torture who arrive in the UK, as well as striving to protect and promote their rights. Since its inception, over 50,000 individuals have been referred for help. Thanks to the dedication of staff and volunteers – as well as scores of passionate supporters and funders – thousands of torture survivors have been able to rebuild their lives in incredibly difficult circumstances.
I know what it takes to stand as a solitary voice against injustice, and I have been inspired by many of my clients who have fought for national change against overwhelming odds.
This work over the past 15 years means I have spoken daily to the widest possible range of people in society. I believe it is essential for our leaders to have experience of the world outside politics, to be able to demonstrate that they have the experience, resilience and people skills to challenge the political status quo.