Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gateshead Election Campaign:Reflections and Round Up

Finally May 6th Came! First I would like to congratulate Ian Mearns the new Labour MP. It was a pleasure meeting him and speaking with him and I am glad Gateshead has an MP who loves his home town and is loyal to the core.

According to the BBC election 2010 website you the voter increased the Conservative share of the vote in Gateshead by 4.8% . Thank you for your support. Labour votes fell by 7.2 %,the remaining 2.2% of which was split between the Lib Dems and other parties. I am pleased to make an impact on the results and hope this will serve to underscore the messages I have been conveying over the last few months.

I like many other candidates am glad the election is finally over. Tonight David Cameron has become Prime Minister after forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. It feels like a historic moment and a good time to reflect upon my own campaign.

My aim was to give profile to issues in Gateshead which need addressing. The multi-story car park and the redevelopment of Gateshead Town Centre is the first and I am glad Frank Hindle the Liberal Democrat candidate set up a petition as part of his campaign to back getting the redevelopment moving. In true spirit of the Tory –Lib Dem coalition I will be signing it.

I also highlighted the depressing statistics of addiction in the area and the need for political recognition and action at parliamentary level by Gateshead’s next MP. I have had a lot of feed back on this issue and even this week now the campaign is over I will be meeting with a constituent with expert knowledge to continue moving this agenda forward.

You have to have some guts to stand as a Tory in Gateshead. The worst aspects of my candidacy have been receiving the hate-mail and writing to constituents in response to misleading information on our policies from other parties. I have done my upmost to run a positive campaign. I refuse to be dragged in to negative commentary or blogging. I chose not to sign up to any round robin request for pledges or to emails that were aggressive or with questionable origin. I did however respond to most individual requests for information. I have had some technical problems with this blog linking to the email account which has been frustrating, and making contact was tricky because you have to drag the cursor over my email address for it to appear, but hey that is not an excuse that is life with computers!

However the positives surpass the negatives. It was an amazing privilege to be invited to visit local business,charitable organisations and attend regional events. Entering people’s homes and sharing with their lives keeps my feet on the ground and my eye on the goal. Most of all I have loved talking and meeting with residents in Gateshead. It is not Saltwell Park, the Quayside or even the new leisure centre that make the constituency. It is you!

I sign off with the sense of a new dawn in British politics. I hope the new government will be able to deliver new politics, new economics and new society.  

Hazel Anderson General Election 2010

Friday, 23 April 2010

Hustings at a Carer’s Forum

On Wednesday I took part in a hustings with the Labour party candidate for Gateshead and the Lib Dem candidate for Blaydon. I worked on Iain Duncan Smiths Social Justice Policy group and researched the need for carers reform in 2007. David Cameron understands the strains of caring due to his own experience with his son. The policy group recommended to the Conservative party greater support and reform to provide respite care so that carers can take a break and still feel they can go on caring. There was also recognition of the fact that Carer’s Allowance is too low and rules must change so it can be claimed along side other benefits such as pensions. We all know money is tight in the budget right now. However, I sense the carer lobby will make progress if we can achieve a cross party consensus in supporting the ever growing number of carers in our society.

Meeting with the Chambers family

Many constituents have contacted me via my blog and email. I have been doing my upmost to answer all questions and help with any problems people are having.

Ken and Shona Chambers contacted me because of an accident their son Michael had at a local swimming pool on a summer play scheme. Michael is aged 13 and has Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome, ASD and non verbal communication. Shona was called to pick him up after he fell and broke his leg. Shona says he was left over an hour before the emergency services were called and she still has not found out what happened on that day. His thighbone was broken and it was a life threatening injury. He is now reliant on a wheelchair almost two years later, and working very hard to walk again - but it is a long, slow and painful process. The whole family is evidently very distressed about the inconclusive report they received from the council. As a parliamentary candidate I would love to wave a magic wand and help them to get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately I do not possess one. What I can do is put this in the public domain and ask the council to meet again with Ken and Shona. The council is in general very supportive of Carers in our community. I hope they can move this case forward to reach an amicable conclusion.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Immigration: Celebrating Diversity Whilst Controlling Immigration.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a journalist from the BBC who wanted to interview an immigrant who would vote conservative and back our policy to cap immigration numbers. I can find them inside and outside of Gateshead without any problem. Most people I have spoken to on the doorstep what ever their background agree immigration has reached such an unprecedented level there needs to be tough controls or we will all suffer.
I have been involved in local politics in Gateshead for the last four years and I have always sought to reach out to all communities. My family has attended events run by the Gateshead Muslim association and invited them to parties at a local church. We have spoken to members of the Jewish community about their views on the way politics should be heading. And I have organised a Conservative social action event window washing resident’s houses in the streets of Gateshead with supporters from many backgrounds.
A vote for the Conservative party is a vote to celebrate diversity. However we also understand we need to reduce immigration and are proposing an annual limit on numbers, and only on the basis of skills shortages in the UK. We love our diverse community. We can protect it together with a tough stance on immigration.
Update on Campaign Gateshead.
It is not all door knocking and leaflet dropping. I think the work of a candidate even in the run up to a general election should allow for fighting for individuals in trouble. Today I am visiting a constituent with a major issue with the council. Get in touch with me if I can help you.

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Home Front in Gateshead

My brother in law is in the RAF and is flying out to Afghanistan tomorrow. I would love to hear from more residents with relatives in the armed forces. I have already blogged about how local manufacturing industry is involved in the defence industry. However I want to hear more from you about the experience of your family and friends, and what it is like to be waiting for news at home.

What do you think the governments approach to Afghanistan should be? As a candidate with personal experience of travel and aid in Afghanistan (I spent time there in 2006 and 2007) I would like to hear what the word on the street is in Gateshead.
Let me know what you think: email me at

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Redundacy : On yer bike

Last week my husband was offered a package to leave the engineering company where he has spent the last four years in employment. He took it and now has his eyes on the goal of starting a new business.

For any family this is an uncertain prospect. However, the same day I was watching the news with the headline that a rail company based in York had gone under. All staff were to be made redundant without the previous months pay. Suddenly our own situation looked positively bright.

Under this government we have seen shrinkage in many areas of economy. It feels like everything now is made in China and as one Managing director I spoke to put it, if we continue like this there will be no jobs in the UK except in serving MacDonald’s burgers.
Last week many businesses came out in support of the Conservative pledge to cut business tax.

The Conservative party understands the paramount importance of supporting and encouraging Business and in our society. That does not mean supporting only big business where some are making a lot of profit, but giving small businesses and individuals a fighting change to earn their own living and envision our economy.

Vote Conservative for a better chance to earn our own living and rebuild our flagging economy.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Springwell Precision Engineering

On Wednesday I visited a fantastic company at the edge of our Gateshead Constituency employing eighteen people, some of whom live in Gateshead. This company was bought to my attention by ‘Defence Matters’ working on behalf of the ministry of defence because over thirty percent of Springwell’s business is a contract to manufacture parts for anti-tank weaponry for the armed forces. Without this contract Springwell would have struggled to survive the recession. Their turn over has dropped from over two million to seven hundred and fifty thousand over the last few years.
Springwell has spoken with a number of Labour ministers during this last government asking for funding for apprenticeships to train young people for the highly skilled work they carry out. It is astounding the company has had no support. Springwell’s managing director Phil says within two years of that apprentice working full time after training the Government would have that money back in taxes. He went on to say
‘When I see people in their early twenties are stacking shelves in the Supermarket I think what a waste when they could be trained in our industry and double their Salary’.
If the government is spending so much on training young people during this recession why are they ignoring the requests of our local manufacturing businesses? Phil perhaps nailed it on the head when he pinpointed the lack of political debate up here due to the strength of the Labour party meant no one was holding their actions to account. Get in touch with me if you have similar concerns as I raise the profile of local business requests in our area.

Getting Gateshead Moving – Where is our City Centre Redevelopment?

In the five years I have lived in the North East I have read various local newspaper articles promising that the multi story car park was going and we would see the first phase of the re-development of Gateshead city centre. At present it is limping on with little chance of attracting outside business, investors and shoppers.
Last weekend I attempted to get some answers in Tesco’s as it is well known they own land in the centre and should be partnering with the council to oversee the development. Not wishing to be passed from pillar to post within their head office I went straight for the jugular and asked to see one of the section managers in the Tesco store in Gateshead. ‘We can’t say anything other than there will be a new store in 2013’.
For the residents of Gateshead we are still waiting. ...and waiting.... and waiting.
I will be contacting the council and seeing if they have any answers.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

February - Drug and Alcohol abuse: Young Peoples services in Gateshead.

What am I wearing?! These are ‘Beer Goggles’ which let a young person experience the disorienting effects of too much alcohol without having to drink it. I did not successfully manage to dribble the ball around the skittles before me!
Last week I visited SMART – a substance misuse information and support centre for under eighteens in central Gateshead. In February it emerged that Gateshead had the highest level of alcohol related hospital admissions in the country. Needless to say this is not something to be proud of and as an MP of Gateshead I would want to be working hard to support those on the front line of this issue.
The services offered by SMART to young people include an education programme about the effects of alcohol abuse and drug use. This is delivered in School classrooms, at youth events and using SMART’s very own bus. SMART estimates over 2000 under eighteens have benefited meaningfully from this work In the past year. In addition there are over seventy service users who use the SMART facilities and are helped by a range of interventions and treatments. It is difficult to measure outcomes effectively for a lot of this work and therefore not always easy to secure funding.

A years funding was found to allow a dedicated member of staff to liaise with the NHS on under eighteen referrals from A and E due to excessive alcohol intake. It was sad to hear that the scheme hit a brick wall with little co-operation from the Primary Care Trust.

The Conservatives will put the NHS as a priority and need to take the cost of alcohol abuse seriously.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Looking Forward : My diary for February & March

Gateshead and Blaydon association meeting Monday 1st February 7.30pm at the Lindman club Gateshead. Glen Hall, candidate for Blaydon and I, will be reporting back on our campaign progress and how you can help. Do come along if you are free. I would love to meet you there.

Ward survey- My team and I will be pacing some of the streets to survey a ward and see what we can help you with. I will blog the progress report here.

Springwell Precision Engineering- I have been invited to visit this small company employing seventeen people within the Gateshead constituency supplying the defence industry. I hope to arrange a visit at the beginning of February. This will enable me to see how Gateshead, business and defence are mutually linked. I am sure it will bring into focus broader issues including the war in Afghanistan and how it connects into Gateshead.

Visiting the Oasis centre youth project, (see my earlier posting) a NECA initiative helping those with alcohol, drugs and gambling addictions. I will be visiting their youth project as one of the outcomes of my last visit was the need for politicians to understand the importance of supporting youth groups to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. Prevention is better than cure!

Making contact with leaders of Gateshead’s faith communities and relevant secular bodies is one of my priorities for the month of February. I would like to hear first hand how different communities are co-existing and interacting in Gateshead and discuss all other relevant issues including the rise of the BNP .

Contacting Tesco’s and the council – will they talk to me about the city redevelopment? I will let you know!

Arranging to attend the street association set up at Claremont Place, Bensham, to see how residents are changing their own street together!

Visiting and helping Wendy Morton in Tynemouth, a fellow Conservative candidate standing in the general election. She has been running an outstanding campaign, working hard for residents and drawing in both private enterprise and public services to assess their work and needs. I am keen to learn everything I can.

Unemployment figures up by 7000 in the North East

Everyone has been surprised by the announcement that national unemployment figures went down last week . Sadly for the North East we saw a dramatic rise of seven thousand. It is the same old story of the north south divide. For all the government has stimulated the economy, it is frustrating the area has been let down yet again.
Are those in power doing enough for us? I will let the facts speak for themselves.

The Newcastle- Gateshead Debate

This week on Look North’s political correspondent Mark Denten looked at how the branding of Gateshead has slipped into the term Newcastle- Gateshead , depriving Gateshead of an individual identity. The Gateshead locals interviewed were less than happy with this scenario!
It is true Gateshead shares transport links and services with Newcastle creating a diverse area to live in. Obviously there has been an effort to raise the profile of Gateshead by placing the Sage and the Baltic south of the Tyne. Yet I wonder to what extent the redevelopment of the town centre in Gateshead has been pushed down the list of priorities because of the argument that all the facilities of Newcastle are yours.
The constituency boundaries have been redrawn for this next election so that all of Gateshead is represented by only one MP. Gateshead has historically been independent and there is little evidence I have come across to suggest that locals want to change this. I believe Gateshead does have a distinct identity all of its own. Newcastle on this occasion can stay out of this one


‘Mummy I want to go and fix the buildings’ said my two year old son after catching images of the piles of rubble in Haiti on the six o clock news. Hopefully the generosity of the British public in the appeal may help fix a few among other things. The financial appeal is a few weeks old now but the need continues .If you are still on line after reading this blog and would still like to give you can on the Disaster Emergency Committee’s (DEC) website.

New Labour Candidate for Gateshead

The announcement that present candidate David Celland is to retire was somewhat of a surprise. I look forward to meeting the new candidate in the future.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Gateshead’s ‘non politician’ – What I Stand For.

If you want to be popular in 2010 do not become a banker or a politician
I have not been an MP yet therefore I am not caught up in the expenses scandal. My career choices to date of teacher, political think tank researcher and mother don't really display a love of gold digging. Not that I have a problem with people earning lots of money; it is just not top of my agenda. I do not get paid as a political candidate. My campaign will be fuelled by hard work, some raised sponsorship and the help of volunteers - not piles of private cash.
I am convinced the British public will give more credit to a party focused on solving the issues rather than demonising Gordon Brown. All of us in the political system – and that includes the media- could re-instil some confidence in our society if we abandon the name calling of playground politics and use energy to solve the problem instead of sensationalising stories, winning arguments and focusing merely on the voting figures. British politics has sunk into a murky quagmire. Please put my name at the top of the list for the long awaited revolution.
A new language is needed in British politics. I believe in the value of dialogue on common ground, acknowledging the good ideas of another party and the hard work of an opposing politician. That does not make me soft nor does it mean I will not challenge the problem or the person. I simply understand the value of consensus and the positive effect of credit to be given to the other side in building up support to solve a problem.
After all, winning is not measured in the polling stations or the debating floor but by the change we see in our nation. I’m a Conservative because I believe they want your vote for real change.

Three reasons why the people of Gateshead should vote for me.

1. I wish to put the regeneration in Gateshead, physically, economically, socially and emotionally at the centre of my campaign. Everyone has a self interest and mine is I’d like a better world in which to bring up our kids.

2. I am politics without the glossy finish. Hopefully you will like the slightly more plausible matt version. I am not into creating illusions of grandeur about myself. You will find a transparent approach to my blog and the way I work during my campaign.

3. Many people cast protest votes in the local elections last year because they were so fed up with British politics. Don’t waste your protest on obscurity–vote for me instead.

Three reasons why the people of Gateshead should vote Conservative

The Conservative party want to see a change:

Fixing our broken society- Conservatives are not the party which only look after the rich. This is a handy myth a lot of opposing parties like to perpetuate. Conservatives have focused their policy making initiatives on lifting the poorest 20% out of poverty in the last few years. The poverty gap under this labour government has become wider. Their ideas are not working.

Fixing our broken economy- It is a myth the Tories do not care about the North East. They understand the need to support local communities in a time of recession and to temper the traditional north/south divide. On a national level they will take firm action on Labour’s huge deficit bill to bring it under control. They have been honest about the cuts that need to be made.

Fixing our broken politics- Everyone is fed up with British politics. The Conservatives are already demonstrating they want to do things differently, such as the open primaries they have held which give all constituents a vote to choose the candidate of their choice. The Conservatives will work with the electorate to get it right.

Why stand as a Conservative in Gateshead?

There are easier places to stand as a Conservative than Gateshead. The hangover of memories from Margret Thatcher and the miners in the north east are yet to disappear. I spoke at a residents meeting in Bensham four years ago and one lady approached me at the end to tell me she agreed with everything I said but her family had always voted Labour and she would continue to follow in their foot steps.
I am not a glory supporter. I have resisted the attraction of applying for a seat with a more natural Conservative base because I have roots in Gateshead. Wanting to fix the problems I saw on my doorstep led me into politics in the first place. You can read my first posting in October for a full biography. If I loose the battle (the seat) but win the war by creating debate, challenging political inertia and highlighting issues ignored by dominant labour representation at both council and parliamentary level then we might see some change around here.
People in Gateshead still find it hard to trust the Conservatives even though the party has seen a great transformation under David Cameron. As a candidate I hope to be that new face of the party working hard for you to change your mind.
A vote for me is not wasted. Be part of the next potential Conservative Government. Together we can fight for change in Gateshead.

What is the issue on your street I can help you with?

As the big freeze turns into the big thaw I have plans to take the Gateshead Conservative Association to you to find out what your local issues are. We won’t be able to knock on every door, but please get in touch if there is anything on your street I can help you with.

January - Snow in Gateshead

It is early January and a friend with three children phoned me up and described amongst other things how her street- Osborne terrace had not been gritted , seriously restricting her movement around town with three children under five in tow.
The inability of many councils to grit side roads during the ‘big freeze ‘was a common occurrence. Get in touch if you had a particularly bad experience on your road and I will speak with the Gateshead council on your behalf. Winter is not over yet and it could happen again!

December - NHS! NHS! NHS!

The big Tory promise to save the NHS from spending cuts always seemed like a good idea to me. Then at ten days old my baby son developed a life threatening condition which severely affected his breathing. His oxygen saturation levels were dangerously low and he fingers and toes were turning blue in the doctor’s surgery. Three GP’s bought him back from the edge with oxygen therapy there and then. We were whisked to hospital in an ambulance. We spent a worrying ten days under an intensive care team and children’s ward doctors, whilst he was pumped with intravenous antibiotics, oxygen and covered in wires and monitors before we were finally given the all clear to go home.
When this happened we were down in Cambridge visiting my father in law who had just had five minor stokes. He too had been treated by the NHS. I marvelled at this amazing service. We were not even at home and we could rock up at a hospital when it was needed most and we did not need to bankrupt our selves to do it.
I could tell you what is wrong with the NHS. We could sit and talk over coffee about the lack of continuity in care, the gaps in nursing training and the severe shortage of medical staff. All of this I observed from my sons experience. However, this is also the truth: today fire burns brightly in my son’s eyes. They saved his life.
I think I am going to vote for the party of the NHS this year.

Micro Politics – Residents Association at Claremont Place, Bensham.

I was having coffee with friends to discover that they and other residents in Claremont Place, Bensham have set up their own street residents group and bid for funding from the council to change their local environment.
I was very impressed by the level of dedication to where they live and the sense of community and responsibility they are developing.
I have asked for an invitation in 2010 to one of their meetings to catch up on their progress. Let me know if you are involved in similar activities or would like some advice on setting up your own residents group.
It is not just the political people who can change your area. You are better at it than we are!

Get Carter, Get a Move On!

It’s coming up to Christmas and as I am doing my shopping in Tesco in Gateshead, I have some questions. I have not got the answers yet. Maybe you can help?!
‘What is that multi-storey car park in the centre of Gateshead still doing there? ‘
‘It’s coming down!’ I hear you cry.
‘Well not fast enough’, is my response.
We have had ten years of growth in this country before the recession. Still we have not made great progress on the development on the city centre of Gateshead. Let us be frank here, it does need some serious rehabilitation to attract business, investment and visitors.
I am well aware of the progress in residential areas that has been made and that is to be commended. However, I do believe there is a real question as to why the council has not been able to work effectively with a big business such as Tesco to move the central redevelopment on. It is essential for Gateshead. In the new year I hope to gain a clearer understanding of this delay for the sake of the constituents. Do get in touch if you can help!

A Focus on Drugs and Alcohol:Visiting the Oasis Centre in Gateshead

After being selected I was keen to research growing concerns within our area that we hear little about from current MP’s in the area. The truth is Gateshead saw a huge rise in drugs related crime between April – August 2009 according to Northumbria Police figures, the greatest increase seen in the area of Low Fell. Sadly, it is also the case Gateshead appears in the top ten for areas of the UK for problems of Alcohol dependence. I do not need to describe to you, the local residents, the social problems this causes.
Having worked for Iain Duncan Smith’s Social Justice Policy Group which formulated recommendations for policy solutions to these growing problems, I am well acquainted with the role the government can have on tacking the issues. I am convinced the next MP for Gateshead needs to get along side all those who are working hard in local organisations to reach out to those who have fallen into addiction.
In November I visited Oasis Gateshead NECA centre on the high street. The service is open to anyone over the age of 18 who is experiencing problems with drugs, alcohol and gambling. I met with regional director Jackie Wales and project manager Stuart Hann to look at their work and offer them support politically in the challenging work they are engaged with.
Jackie and Stuart knew what they were talking about, working on the front line here for a number of years. They described how easily available drugs were. Jackie said you could buy them from the local ice cream van outside school. However, most people walking through Oasis doors had issues relating to alcohol abuse. Alcohol dependence in their opinion was fuelled by the wide availability and particularly the low cost in supermarkets.
There were four conclusions we drew from the discussion which I want to highlight in my campaign.
1. Their funding will in affect be cut by 4% per service user a year for the next three years under this Labour Government.
2. Government drugs policy stops short at helping people fully recover from drug addiction. Instead methadone use is wide spread. The effect of this prescribed tranquiliser drug user may lower drugs crime figures but it does not leave the user in a fit state to engage in normal life.
3. The price of alcohol in their opinion influenced the level of alcohol dependence.
4. Oasis has yet to be visited by a local MP. The question I ask is: surely the kind of work this organisation delivers to the people of Gateshead should be a priority of inquiry for anyone in office given the huge issues Gateshead has with addiction?
I imagine if this is your constituency you may not want to highlight the darker side of Gateshead life that this present government has not solved. However there is message here for David Cameron in policy making too. We all know we are facing massive spending cuts. Yet if NHS spending is to be protected – a Conservative election promise, it is paramount any incoming Government is not short sighted in how it reduces demand for NHS services in the first place. Given alcohol abuse is a big drain on hospital budgets, cutting any level of support to rehabilitation services needs some serious cost/benefit analysis.
I have been invited back to Oasis to visit their youth work. I will keep you posted!

October – the Conservative Party Conference

In October I attended the Conservative party conference, channelling the majority of my time into events focusing on the North East.
The pressing concern of the economy and an analysis of our areas performance in the context of the rest of the UK were key areas of discussion. There was general consensus that government decisions such as the route of the planned high speed rail network would massively affect our regions capacity to win business and investment in the future. It was excellent to have input from a range of sources including large organisations such as Northumbria Water, public sector employers including the NHS (the largest employer in the N.E at 70,000 on the payroll) as well as feedback from smaller enterprises and business think tanks.
I also had the privilege of attending Martin Callahan’s (MEP for the north east) evening event and listening to a lively discussion on our place in Europe. David Cameron nicely rounded off my agenda as I sat in the main hall to hear his vision of governance of the UK. It was surprisingly emotional hearing the whole speech from start to finish, and far more coherent in thought than the snippets we are fed on news.

An admission of bad blogging

I received my election pack and read it over Christmas taking in advice from the party as the best way to run a parliamentary campaign. The advice on blogs was update it regularly or it would reflect badly. They have a point.
I was hoping to start this blog in October. Then chaos loomed in November and December – the usual life dramas that tend to happen all at once. We moved house. I was heavily pregnant. My father in law had 5 minor stokes. I had a baby. My baby developed a life threatening condition and we spent too many days and nights in hospital willing him to get better. I know, it reads like a script from Eastenders.
I am starting this blog today in the new year with numerous short postings to update you about our campaign in Gateshead , my thoughts on recent political events and why it might be a good idea to vote Conservative in the coming general election. I hope its contents will be transparent and informative and I look forward to hearing from you!

Juggling work and the election campaign

All candidates have a day job. I am learning to balance an election campaign with mine- that of full time motherhood where the hours are 24 /7. My stamina is improving for writing blog posts at midnight when our two up two down is finally quiet or phoning the world at 2pm in the afternoon when my toddler is allowed to watch some telly  and the baby has dosed off. Door to door campaigning will happen in the evening or at weekends when voters are at home and my husband can look after the children. One thing is for sure, my kids are not suffering for the sake of the campaign but I am resigned to the fact I may be in the running for the award for the most chronically sleep deprived political candidate by the time the election comes about!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

A Biographical Journey to my Gateshead Candidacy

I grew up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire and spent my teenage years in the Peak District. My grandfathers were practical people working for the water board and British Rail supporting the family whilst my grandmothers were based at home or working at the local school canteen. My own parents are products of that generations hard work, emphasis on self sufficiency and making ends meet . From childhoods in a council house and a small terrace in London mum and dad worked upwards to gain jobs in academic research and working for the local council.
I come from a state comprehensive school background. I went on to read History at Cambridge, funding that period of my life some parental help and a job working for the Royal Bank of Scotland, setting up accounts and working as a cashier. The idea was I would then train as a primary school teacher. Sadly I fell ill at university and was left with severe post viral syndrome (or M.E.) , taking time out of my degree, crawling through my final year then spending the next couple of years living on incapacity benefit. I can tell you all about the state benefits system first hand.
There was little I could do in those years of ill health other than drink cups of tea with those at a loose end like myself. As you look into the eyes of the wounded, lonely and destitute people in our society (and they are not all poor in the financial sense) you wonder what you can do to make someone smile, change their lives and save them from the injustices in this world.
As my health improved I volunteered to work in local schools near where I was living, reading with children with special needs, then working up to two days a week in a special needs school where I helped run a speech therapy project.
I got married in 2003. My husband and I wished to work abroad so saved money for the trip by living in a caravan in the Lake District. My husband worked as a graduate engineer and I found a job at his firm checking insurance claims, bridge calculations and logging ‘abnormal loads’. If you are not sure what they are you do not need to know! I also helped ran a local campsite shop.
In 2004 we travelled through the Middle East before working for an aid agency in Tajikistan (boardering Afghanistan) , one of the poorest countries in the world . I wrote a short report on the local mental hospital and helped dish out soup in a food kitchen to people who did not have enough to eat. I was standing under the gushing water of poverty with no way of turning off the taps. You may be familiar with the Chinese proverb ‘ Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime’. I started thinking that only works if you have access to a fishing rod and are allowed to the river.
We returned to the UK and I trained as a primary school teacher in inner city schools primarily in Gateshead where we lived in a house off Sunderland road in the regeneration area where broken households came gift wrapped in crime, drugs, alcohol and social disturbance. It was an eventful time in our married life. The Northumbrian police proved excellent at dealing with Friday night revelry in the area, our car was redesigned on a couple of occasions and one night my husband woke up to the local burglar in his bedroom and chased him out in his underpants! I was very glad to be away that night. There are many elements of Gateshead that make it a fantastic place to live. Then there are those that I wanted to see changed.
The children of Gateshead are fabulous. Government targets, unrealistic expectations surrounding inclusion (teaching all abilities together in the same class), ridiculous levels of pointless paperwork are not. It was a painful journey for me as I realised my longstanding ambition to be a teacher and input positively into children’s lives could be potentially drowned out by a system that as a teacher you are powerless to change and must deliver. Additionally, working with children from less than ideal backgrounds again illuminated the wider problems in our society. This was my personal tipping point to start investigating political solutions. Politics at its best can change structures and organisations so they work and it can dramatically alter the way people live.
I  was offered a job on Iain Duncan Smiths ‘Social Justice Policy Group’ based in Westminster and worked in both an administrative and research capacity. The group reported to the Conservative Party in July 2007 with policy solutions to tackle relative poverty in Britain.
I am now a full time mother of a two year old boy and am awaiting the arrival of his baby sibling. I felt it was important to take time out for our children even though this is not always recognised in our frenetic world as a good choice to make. We are not financially well off because of the decision – but the Anderson family is happy. I am glad we have been able to make this choice because I recognise not everyone’s circumstances allows for this as an option.
 In my spare time I like to write, hike and swim. In a bygone era I ran marathons and participated in fell runs. Now I seem to run marathons on a daily basis trying to keep up with my extremely energetic toddler!