Occupation: Medical Communications Director
Political leanings – “Independent but left leaning.”
Big Idea – To impose legislation to prevent multinational corporations from using debt shifting practises to avoid paying taxes. With the money raised, she would propose spending this on improving community infrastructure and facilities.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Caring, passionate and different. I think I’m different, and that might become more apparent when we talk some more.
Why are you interested in politics?
I wouldn’t say that I was naturally somebody who wanted to be involved in politics. I understand that it’s an incredibly serious job, and it needs to be done quite selflessly. But what I would say is that I care about people, I care about social justice, and that’s the reason that I’ve ended up here. I feel that we’re lacking people who are getting involved in politics for selfless reasons. We have a lot of careerists, a lot of people who, by their very nature of their disposition, want to be leaders. But wanting to be a leader, being a good orator, being confident, or being able to clap back in the way that they do in the Commons are not the only qualifications or traits that are needed. I think that being selfless and genuinely caring about social justice are more important than your degree or your ability to snigger in the Commons. I think it was Plato who wrote (so it was probably Socrates!) ‘Those who seek power are not equipped to deal with it.’ I think the way that the world is at the moment, we probably need someone who doesn’t really want to be a politician, but cares about people, to step into the role.
How would you describe your political leanings? Do you identify with a particular party?
I don’t. It’s not that I disagree with everything the parties say, I think they both have some valid points, but my belief is that the system is broken. If you have any number of parties, if ultimately the party that ends up in government is controlled by corporations and those who have donated to the party and therefore expect something in return, that’s not actually democracy. We’ve reached such a cynical stage of capitalism that ultimately, regardless of what people vote for, those with the most money decide the policy. So I wouldn’t say that I sit with left or right, I sit with the people, and I believe in doing the right thing, not the thing that big business wants you to.
Who is your political hero?
This is going to sound very odd, but I used to work for the NHS, and I was a communications specialist for many years. I remember joining a Clinical Commissioning Group as the head of communications, and the chief officer called me into his office and said “So tell my why you’re here. How did you end up in public sector communications?” And I said “Well, I suppose, when I was younger, a little bit of me found the idea of spin doctors quite exciting. And he said “Oh, you were one of those who grew up with posters of Alastair Campbell on their wall.”
Please tell me you didn’t have a poster of Alastair Campbell on your wall!
I didn’t have a poster of Alastair Campbell on my wall, but I found the comment very amusing. In truth, I think my heroes probably don’t lie in politics, but in human rights. People like Shami Chakrabati and even the fabulous Amal Clooney.
What about your political villain?
You’ve probably heard Boris Johnson a lot of times today. I suppose, having been an NHS worker for much of my life, I’d have to say Jeremy Hunt.
Do you have any experience in a political role?
I don’t. I have a lot of experience working in the public sector, in the NHS and with youth charities. And I am very much involved in health championing, in an advocacy role for health charities such as Diabetes UK, and health tech organisations. I think it’s my experience of the public sector that really gave me an insight into some of the system failings that we’re experiencing.
Do you think your own diagnosis with type 1 Diabetes has shaped your political opinions?
I wouldn’t limit it to just my health. I would say that I’ve had a number of life experiences that have exposed me to things, made me vulnerable to things, made me a victim of things. I am a person of mixed racial heritage, who’s experienced racism. My mother was an immigrant to this country, and unfortunately my father, who is English, his parents basically disowned him for marrying an immigrant. My mother, who was from India, passed away when I was five. I was bullied at school, and I actually faced racism from a primary school teacher. I was then diagnosed with Type One diabetes at the age of 20. I’ve faced adversity in my life that I feel I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through, and I think that’s been my drive for much of my career. It’s the reason that I got into the NHS, through a desire to help people. That stems from many experiences – grieving, racism, mental health issues, physical health issues, so I have a broad range of things that I care about.
What would your strengths be in the role of Prime Minister?
I think the strength that I’d bring to the role is integrity. Having been someone who has faced adversity and bullying, I learned at a very young age that the only thing that I can be is myself. I tried very hard, as a child, to make friends, and it didn’t work. I made some great friends when I was a bit older. But it gave me the steadfast belief that, regardless of how hard you try, you can still lose. So the best thing you can do is be yourself. I’d rather lose as myself than lose pretending to be someone else and thinking afterwards “Perhaps if I’d been myself I would have done better. So I feel that integrity is a strong part of my identity, and one I’d bring to politics.
What about your weaknesses?
This is going to sound crazy, as I’m here doing this, but I’m a sensitive person. I care, and that can be wonderful, but it’s also a double-edged sword. I appreciate that I won’t win everything that I campaign for, and that is something that I will have to build coping mechanisms for.
If you were PM what is the first law you would pass?
I’m never going to make it to Prime Minister saying this, but I think I’d put a cap on capitalism. I feel that the current situation, where so few have so much, it’s not just a moral problem, it’s an economic problem. And it’s creating ripple effects. And we must never forget that it’s the public who pay politicians’ wages. If I were to buy a top from a shop, and I took it home and found that it was too small or exposed my chest or whatever, I would take it back for a refund, because it would not be fit for purpose. The British taxpayer spends a huge chunk of their monthly income paying for politicians, and I would argue that the service they’re providing is not fit for purpose. I think a cap on capitalism would solve not just economic problems, but problems of corruption, problems of careerists. I would want to see my cabinet act with their heart and not their pocket.
According to Theresa May, the naughtiest thing she ever did was run through a field of wheat. What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
Where do I begin? I’m a human being. I was a teenager. I think the story that my dad and my stepmother tell the most is that they would be sat in the living room late at night, and they would see a figure drop from the upstairs window, as I would jump out of the bedroom window, thinking they were asleep, and I would run down to the bottom of the drive, where the boy racers would come and pick me up in their cars. And we’d all go to McDonalds’ car park and spin around in the cars.
What specific aspects of the show are you looking forward to, and what are you nervous about?
I’m looking forward to the challenges, because I’m certainly going to be stepping out of my comfort zone, and I think that’s both nerve-wracking and exciting. You don’t grow without stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s a fabulous opportunity for me, and that’s what I’m most excited about. I’m anxious about how I might be perceived. I can be very passionate, and I think some of the things I’m going to say might seem radical to some people. But I hope that it comes across that I really believe the things that I’m passionate about are for the benefit of the vast majority.
If the chance arose in real life, would you consider standing for parliament?
I think I would, because despite the fact that I have no personal aspirations to be in those positions, I’m not afraid to put myself on the line for the benefit of other people. I really believe that – I’m going to get emotional, sorry – that having been through some of the things that I’ve been through, I’m probably well-positioned to do something. Other people have much more to lose than me. I’m not married, I haven’t got any children, and if I had to put my head above the parapet and make myself a target to say what’s right, that’s the type of person that I am.
How do you feel about working with Sayeeda Warsi and Alastair Campbell?
I am super-excited. I was really nervous when they first said “There will be someone from the left and someone from the right” because I felt like there might be one or both that I didn’t agree with or wasn’t a fan of. I can honestly say that I’m a fan of both people. In terms of Sayeeda’s journey, from where she grew up to where she got to, is incredibly inspirational. I’m really excited to meet her. I’m also a woman of Asian descent, so to see her in the position that she’s in is a huge inspiration to me. And with Alastair, we’re both writers, we’re both communicators, we’ve both openly talked about our struggles with mental health issues. I feel like he and I might have a lot in common, and I’m incredibly excited to talk to him. I hope that they both see me in a way that I intend to come across.
Who knows, maybe by the end of it you’ll have posters of both of them on your wall!
Yes! Or they’ll have a poster of me!
As you are about to embark on this experience, how are you feeling?
Now I’m here, I feel much less anxious than I did in the week before arriving here. I think a lot of that is down to fear of the unknown. I worried that some of the other candidates might be argumentative, and I try not to take an argumentative stance when I debate. I don’t like the theatre of the Commons, with the one-liners and the clap-backs and the sneering – I find that quite offensive, in all honesty. The things they are talking about are real things that affect real people. All the public schoolboy-ness that happens in the Commons I dislike. So I was worried that some other people in the process might try and goad that out of me, but so far, having met a few people, I don’t think that’s the case. So I’m really excited, I’m really looking forward to hearing everybody else’s ideas. And I’m looking forward to hopefully demonstrating that people can have different ideas and still get on very well.