I was elected as the Labour and Co-operative MP for Walthamstow in May 2010. Prior to that I was the Head of Campaigns at the Scout Association; working to support young people across the country in developing their own advocacy skills. I was proud to work for an organisation which helps nearly half a million young people to develop the skills and confidence they need in life to thrive. Formerly, I was the Deputy Director at the Involve, leading a team of researchers developing new ways to revitalise British democracy.
I am fascinated by the potential of collective endeavour to change the world which has driven my interest in community ownership and co-operative models for service delivery. It’s also why I have a history of involvement in community campaigning in the Waltham Forest area since my family moved there in 1999. Now as the MP I try to support a range of groups to work with local public services as well as each other, for the benefit of our area. 2013 has been a very active year in this field with various 7Days4Stow projects taking off and flourishing to help tackle some of the impacts of austerity in our communities. I have also worked closely with other local residents to achieve change; from community resource centres like Lea Bridge library and The Mill in St James Street, to the campaigns to save the EMD cinema and the Walthamstow Dog Track.
My approach to working with others in Walthamstow has also been informed by my experience of local government. I served on Waltham Forest Council between 2002 and 2006, performing a range of roles including being the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Chief Whip whilst a councillor for Lea Bridge ward in the south of Walthamstow.
I have also been part of the Labour movement for many years and I am as passionate about political ideas as I am about people. I’ve sought to contribute to debate, discussion and decision making within progressive politics throughout my life. Locally, in Walthamstow as a branch secretary, GC delegate, LGC delegate or a campaign organiser. Nationally I have sought to be involved in the Co-op Movement, the Fabian Society, Community Trade Union, Progress and SERA. Since being elected I have continued to engage with organisations and campaigns that seek to empower people to make positive change which is why I am on the National Committee of Movement for Change and involved with the UK arm of One Billion Rising.
My academic career also reflects my concern to understand what works in tackling poverty and how public policy can support community development. My PhD in social psychology won the 2005 Richard Titmuss Prize at the London School of Economics.
In Parliament, as well as participating in many debates and scrutinising legislation, I have played a number of formal roles. After my election I served as a member of the Public Accounts Committee which considers the value for money of public policies. I have also been the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Andy Burnham during his time as the Shadow Secretary of State for Education and the Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs. In September 2011 I joined Labour’s Front bench as a Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention as part of the Shadow Home Affairs team. I am now the Shadow Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs in Labour’s Business, Innovation and Skills team with Chuka Umunna.