Each week a different PPC provides us with an insight into life as a candidate and gives us a flavour of their own campaign and interests. If you are a candidate and are keen to be featured, please email Jonathan Isaby.
This week’s diary is written by George Lee, who was selected in March 2009 for Holborn and St Pancras, where he is challenging for Cabinet Minister, Frank Dobson. Born in Hong Kong, George came to the UK as a child and served in the police for seventeen years, and was the first Chinese officer to reach the rank of Inspector. Since then he has worked as a management consultant and served as executive Vice President at T-Mobile. Read more about him and his campaign on his website.
We were out canvassing in the Brunswick Estate in Bloomsbury. The area is not natural Tory territory but as in other parts of the constituency we get positive reception. I am followed by a London-based Chinese TV crew. Our campaign has been blessed with excellent support from the Chinese community and my aim is to encourage them to become more active in politics. Part of the reason I’m entering politics, as with my service in the MoD and the Metropolitan Police, is because I want to break the mould of traditional expectations and show that we are not all quiet, studious types who don’t speak out or integrate with our neighbours. If I can raise our profile as committed British citizens who make a valuable contribution to society, I’ll be very happy.
Mid-way through the morning I attended the flower laying ceremony at the Ghandi memorial in Tavistock Square with the Indian High Commissioner and Foreign Affairs Minister. During the ceremony I wondered what Ghandi would have made of the 7/7 bombings on the square and the current revelations at the Iraq War Inquiry.
Sunday 31st January
Spend the day telephone canvassing from home. We were incredibly lucky that Geneva [the CCHQ call centre] agreed to canvass the whole constituency before Christmas and results were excellent. We are now sweeping up numbers that Geneva had not been able to get an answer. Canvassing from home, especially on a Sunday, allows me to spend the day with my wife and two children.
Monday 1st February
Out canvassing again in the morning and then I meet a couple of potential donors. The Association is a small one and the potential to raise money from members is limited. I’ve been lucky that many people from all walks of life have dug deep and sent in cheques to finance our campaign. Today I walked away with a pledge of £15,000.
Later in the day I speak to a research team from Channel 4 about taking part in a documentary to examine whether we are a modern compassionate Conservative Party. I also discussed with Andrew Neather, the Comment Editor at the Evening Standard, about writing some articles for the paper. Generating coverage beyond local press is notoriously difficult for a PPC, but I have been very lucky to have been given exposure in a number of national papers as well as international media.
Tuesday 2nd February
Attended George Osborne’s speech at the British Museum where he sets out the Party's eight economic benchmarks for a future Conservative Government. David Cameron, Ken Clarke, David Willetts along with other shadow cabinet members were present. As the local PPC I have my picture taken with George and David Cameron, which we used for a local press release and materials for our literature.
After a spot on canvassing in Holborn, I sit down with members of my team to finalise our latest newsletter. The main issue in the constituency at the moment is the proposal to remove the A&E at the Whittington Hospital. The Whittington has a special place in my heart because I was there as a patient along with hundreds of my injured police colleagues during the 1985 Broadwater Farm Riot - where PC Blakelock was hacked to death. Its closure would be a devastating blow to the local community, placing a huge burden on services at the nearby Royal Free and UCLH. Last month I attended a public meeting with the Chief Executive of the local PCT and was amused to find the local Labour MPs and politicians all clambering to condemn their own party’s health policy. Our party's manifesto promise to oppose A&E closures, reduce bureaucracy, and offer more patient choice are going down well on the doorstep.
As a young policeman I used to deal with the homeless on a daily basis in Lincoln's Inn Fields, St Mungo’s Hostel and the Embankment. In my experience, many of them suffered from mental illness, and various forms of addiction. It was a great shock to me that I came across an old schoolmate living rough on the streets after he became a drug addict and lost his home. It highlights the fact that this can happen to anyone, no matter what class, race, gender or religion they are. Therefore, I was glad to attend the Homeless Link evening reception at Millbank where I was moved by the personal story told by an ex-St Mungo’s client (losing his entire family) who later became one of the hostel staff. Caroline Spelman also spoke well at the event.
Wednesday 3rd February
This morning I join a small group of PPCs at Milbank for a breakfast meeting with Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. Andrew briefed us on the party’s recent manifesto launch - which I strongly support.
Having already secured a publisher in China, I meet with various British publishers in the West End about the possibility of having my personal history printed in time for the election. The working title at the moment is My first 20 years as an Englishman. The book will also highlight the fact that immigrant values align with Conservative values (hard work, respect for law and order, valuing education, responsibility for one’s family/community, and individual choice) and that we are the party of the ‘ladder and the net’. If I can come to this country at the age of ten, speaking not a word of English, and climb the ranks of the British civil service, Met Police and a successful corporate career, why can’t more people? It’s an area I would hope to focus on if I am lucky enough to enter Parliament.
I’m interviewed at the Oriental Club in the West End by a New York-based TV company - NDTTV - before meeting Chinese business executives and government officials seeking advice on how to invest in the UK.
Finally, I attend a dinner at a small restaurant near Euston Station at the invitation of some property development professionals and rugby players from the London Scottish team who wish to help raise funds and act as volunteers. They live in Chelsea and Westminster but want to help me here in Camden, for which I’m extremely grateful. My activist base is a real broad church, coming from a cross section of society and many different parts of London and beyond. I am extremely glad that our campaign has captured the hearts of people across class, race, religion as well as different geographies.
Thursday 4th February
At home catching up on casework and doing some more telephone canvassing. Casework increasingly takes up a lot of my time but it’s something I find very rewarding. Today I hear from some more leaseholders who are unhappy with the often exorbitant service charges they are asked to pay by the Lib Dem-run housing department for sub-standard building work done to their properties - £50,000 plus. Indeed, many are forced to pay upwards of £600 for new digital TV aerials they don’t want and can’t use because they never had any aerial sockets – extremely unfair given the fact that they can buy Freeview set-top boxes from the local shop for £29. It seems that those who took the decision to own a stake in their own home are being punished for doing so. I decide to kick-off a campaign to get better value for money for Camden leaseholders.
Friday 5th February
Met my media team to see how we can further develop our relationship with the Asian and Somalian press (Bengalis and Somalians makes up a significant part of the constituency base) and I was given some excellent news – an invitation to attend the London Bollywood awards as a speaker next week.
I then attended an interview for a local student radio station. We have a number of universities in the constituency and harnessing their support will be crucial in the coming months. We have excellent links with the Conservative society at UCL, the largest in the whole country, and are tapping into the large number of Chinese students living and studying in Holborn and St. Pancras.> Last week's Diary was written by Nick Hillman, PPC for Cambridge