My political journey

I represent the town of Dursley on Stroud District Council, and am leader of the Labour and Co-operative group and council leader. I represent my community at town, regional and national level and within my local Labour and Cooperative Party:

  • Campaigns Vice Chair of Stroud Constituency Labour Party
  • CLP Chair from 2017-2018
  • Chair of GL11 Community Hub and Town Councillor for Dursley
  • member of Unite the Union
  • member of Gloucestershire and Swindon Co-operative Party council and the Co-operative Party Unlock the High Streets task force
  • board member of Gfirst LEP and the District Council Network
  • I am a Local Government Association member peer, and as a member of the LGA Labour group I sit on the LGA People and Places Board
  • member of Labour Women’s Network since 2012.

I was shortlisted for the Gloucester parliamentary selection in 2017, and am on the Co-operative Party Parliamentary Panel.

I joined the Labour party in 2010, in despair at Labour losing the general election. I had always been a Labour supporter, but now I vowed to play my part in fighting the Tories, as I could see they might be in power for some years to come and I couldn’t bear to return to the grim days of cuts and inequality we had known in the 1980s and 90s.

When I got involved with my local Labour party branch I knew little of elected politics, but was persuaded to stand as a candidate for Dursley in the 2012 district elections, beating the sitting Tory councillor. The 2012 election resulted in the Tories losing control of the council, and the formation of a new cooperative alliance with the Greens and Liberal Democrats which is still in power today. As the new Coalition government let the axe fall on public services, backed up by the Gloucestershire Tories in Shire Hall, our little district council held its own, and preserved what it could despite its funding being the first to be cut in the county, and kept investing in the people and places we represented.

Politics and the fight against injustice have always been part of my life.

I never knew either of my grandfathers, one a political prisoner who was tortured to death in prison by the new communist regime in Romania; the other a Welsh boy who gave up his place at a grammar school to go and work to support his family in the desperately poor mining community where they lived. These men, who had no power or privilege, still managed to lead honourable and principled lives.

As we travelled the world in the 1970s, my father supported us by working for the BBC World Service, and he reported on stories in the islands we visited in the Caribbean and Pacific that taught me at a young age about the injustice of slavery, empire and imperialism.

As a family visiting many remote parts of the world, local people always gave us the warmest of welcomes. But when we came home, trying to settle into school in Thatcher’s Britain was tough, I was bullied and called all sorts of racist names. I remembered those children I’d made friends with far away who just accepted me. It left me with a deep belief in tolerance, even more so today as we see so much intolerance and hatred of people who are different.

As a student and young person I was active with Amnesty International and CND. I participated in protests against nuclear weapons, apartheid in South Africa, and the repressive measures of the Conservative government. I witnessed first-hand the brutal dictatorship of Ceausescu’s rule in Romania, taking the train across Europe to visit my grandmother, with my rucksack stuffed full of coffee and other essentials the regime’s rationing made unavailable for ordinary people. And I marched with my young children and my parents against the war in Iraq.

When we settled in Gloucestershire in 2000, I was busy looking after two young children and working from home, but I wanted to connect to my local community, and got involved as a volunteer with playgroup, scouts, Sunday school and as a school governor. This experience led me to stand for Cam Parish Council in 2011, and I helped set up and run the South of Stroud Youth Partnership.

I was the sole breadwinner as my two children grew up, and there were times when we had to survive on part-time work. As the cost of living crisis is pushing more families into poverty, I know what it means to worry about every bill and the cost of school uniforms. Preserving free education and health care matters to me; it has transformed and saved my family.

I am proud to represent my town of Dursley, a town that is often underestimated, as a warm and welcoming community, full of creativity and care.

As a councillor one of the greatest parts of the job has been getting to meet so many different people from many walks of life, that otherwise I would never have met, and helping them through casework or implementing council policies and projects. And as council leader of the whole district, I have always spoken up for all the other places our council serves. I love how each place has its own character and pride, from Stroud to Berkeley, Stonehouse to Painswick, Nailsworth to Wotton, and all the smaller communities across our district.

With over twenty years of serving our community, and a lifetime of standing up for what is right, I believe I offer the experience, values and commitment to represent the Labour Party in campaigning and winning our constituency back for Labour.