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 and continue to volunteer locally with young residents in Walthamstow. Formerly, I was the Deputy Director at the not-for-profit organisation 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 sector, community ownership and co-operative models for service delivery. Its 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. From the Lea Bridge library, to the campaign to save the EMD cinema and the Walthamstow Dog Track, or our new community resource centre at the Mill in St James Street, I have been active in working with other local residents to achieve change and know how hard – and how rewarding – this can be!
The skills I learned working with others in Walthamstow were also 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 as well as councillor for Lea Bridge ward in the south of Walthamstow.
I have also been part of the Labour movement for many years and 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- whether in Walthamstow as a branch secretary, GC delegate, LGC delegate or a campaign organiser or nationally through being involved in the Co-op Movement, the Fabian Society, Compass, Unite, Progress or SERA.
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. Formerly I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee which considers the value for money of public policies, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP 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 and now serve as a Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention as part of Yvette Cooper’s Home Affairs team.
When I’m not in Parliament or in meetings, I enjoy indulging my interests in indie music, American TV crime dramas, cake (especially if baked in Walthamstow) and pub quizzes.