Politics and injustice have been part of my family story that I’ve known my whole life, but I never set out to become a politician.
When I was young I supported many causes – anti-apartheid, CND, Amnesty International – but it never occurred to me to join the Labour Party, even when we experienced the euphoria of winning in 1997.
When we lost in 2010 I remembered so vividly how it had felt at the end of 18 years of Tory rule. I didn’t want our country to go back there, to waiting lists, falling-down schools and run-down public services, so joined the party straight away.
Joining the Labour Party in 2010 was one of the best things I’ve ever done as I realised it is possible to make a difference. My aim then was to help fight the Tories. My aim remains the same today.
Two years later I was elected as a district councillor and my political life became very local and personal, about the ordinary people of the town and the district I represent. They are what makes it worthwhile for me – they work hard and their voices are rarely heard.
I learned about politics early in my life from my Romanian father and my half-English, half-Welsh mother. I learned about the grandfathers I never knew, 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. They are my heroes.
I spent my childhood travelling the world, on a small yacht, we didn’t have much money but my parents were following their dream. The islands we visited in the Caribbean and Pacific taught me about the injustice of slavery, empire and imperialism that remains today when countries try to impose themselves on others by force of arms or by exploiting workers in other countries. The suffering imposed on people personally affected me as a girl and it still does today.
Injustice and intolerance were all around me, and yet in so many remote places the poorest communities gave us the richest welcome. As a teenager I always wanted to do some good but never quite knew how. When we came home, settling 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.
In the past few years I have learnt that politics is not just about grand causes, but also working in communities with people to help make their lives better in very concrete ways.
And above all, to show that Labour is the most relevant party to their lives and the best to represent their interests with honesty and decency.