Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Getting started

Hello, welcome to my new online campaign diary.

I was selected to be the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Reading West last Friday and it feels like I haven't really stopped since.

Although I already have a blog which I write with my lovely ward colleagues Cllr Glenn Goodall and Cllr Kirsten Bayes, I wanted to have a space where I could post updates from the campaign trail as we get closer to the General Election.

I also wanted to give people living in West Reading and West Berkshire a way of finding out more about our local and national Lib Dem campaigns, and what I stand for.

I'm not promising I will always have time to post updates - but I'll try and post them when I can
in between campaigning, working and grabbing time to relax with friends and family.

A bit about me: I've lived in Reading since 2003 but I was born and raised in North London (and as a result I support Arsenal!)

I studied English Literature and Politics at the University of Edinburgh and like many people I came to Reading originally for work.

I love living in Reading (although I don't love commuting to work in London). When I'm not campaigning I love going to the cinema although I don't go as often as I would like. The last film I saw was Nowhere Boy (about John Lennon) although the last film I loved was the excellent Avatar in 3D.

I got elected as a councillor on Reading Borough Council in 2006 and I've spent most of my time since then campaigning and getting things done for local people.

I speak on housing issues on behalf of the Lib Dems on Reading Borough Council and I also Chair a scrutiny panel which covers housing, health and community care. Details of my campaigning in these areas over on my ward blog.

I care passionately about better housing for all and have spent the last few years campaigning for cleaner, greener, safer - and healthier neighbourhoods here in Reading.

These are bread and butter issues that are all about helping to improve the quality of life of ordinary people.

I feel honoured to be chosen as the Lib Dem candidate and I pledge to throw my energy into campaigning for a better quality of life for everyone living in Reading West.

With the retirement of Martin Salter - a popular, hard-working local MP a vacancy has arisen for a new local champion - someone to who is unfraid to speak out for local people and get things done.

I would like to thank everyone who has been in touch to wish me luck and to offer their support.

There will be plenty to do between now and the elections.

Would you like to get involved in the campaign to elect a new local champion for Reading West?

Whatever your skill or interest we'd love to hear from you. Please visit our campaign website and leave us your details.

The friendly team behind the Lib Dem campaign in West Reading is made up of local people of all ages.

It doesn't matter if you haven't been involved in a politics before - now is a great time to get involved with so many issues that need action, and very important elections only months away in Reading.

Back to this week and I've been very busy since I was selected.

The recent freezing weather has made a lot of people's lives very difficult in Reading - particularly the elderly and those on low incomes - and I have been doing my bit to support them and keep them informed.

Yesterday I succeeded in getting the Council to extend a public consultation about introducing unfair service charges for Council tenants. These charges won't now be introduced now until April.

So far this week I've been interviewed by the Reading Chronicle, Get Reading and the Newbury Weekly News about my selection.

There was a nice article and editorial in the hard copy edition Get Reading today (which made up for the unflattering picture of me they printed on the website earlier in the week!)

Oh well, you have to get used to that kind of thing in local politics - especially in Reading.

I have been regularly tweeting about my activities both as a councillor and Reading West PPC since I was selected on Friday. You can follow me here.

Twitter divides opinion but I love it and would encourage everyone to try it before they dismiss it.

Last week TV presenter Anne Diamond interviewed me on her BBC Radio Berkshire lunchtime show about the way I use social media tools to engage. You can listen to our chat here.

I also heard today that I've been shortlisted for a national award for my online campaigning.

I was delighted to see our Party Leader announce he will be taking part in an online public question time on Twitter on 20 January where he will be asking young people what issues they face. I have actively supported the Youth Cabinet and championed issues affecting children and young people in Reading.

On Monday evening I was interviewed by Phil Kennedy on BBC Radio Berkshire about my selection and Nick Clegg's speech this week on fairness.

I was delighted to hear Nick pledging to put fairness at the heart of our manifesto.

As I said in my hustings speech, fairness is very important to me and the sense of injustice about the state of things on my own doorstep was what first attracted me to the Party.

I was also pleased to hear Nick say it was time politicians started treating voters like grown-ups and not pledging to do things they cannot deliver. Gordon Brown and the Labour Party have left the public finances in a total mess and to quote Nick again "the politics of plenty are over".

Nick has spelled out his four steps for a fairer Britain in this short video:

I got a call from BBC South yesterday keen to interview me to do a piece about the problems many young people in Reading are facing during this recession.

The high number of 16-19 year olds who are not in education, employment in training in Reading is an issue I have been actively campaigning to highlight over the past year.

A few months ago I got the Council to hold a special summit to find out what more could be done to help and support young people.

I also campaigned to ensure Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems developed policies action to tackle youth unemployment. I spoke out at the last Lib Dem Conference in support this issue.

You can watch my speech here:

I am very excited about the local Lib Dem campaign for a fairer Reading and I can't wait to get out and about meeting more local people.

I am keen to find out what issues local people in West Reading and West Berkshire are concerned about.

Please get in touch - I'd love to hear from you. Email me at

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