Let’s build a new kind of politics

I’m Steff, and I’m hoping to become our next MP here in North Norfolk. Find out more by watching this two-minute video.

Transcript from my hustings speech:

Hello everyone!  I’m Steff, and I’m hoping to become our next MP here in North Norfolk.

I want to use this opportunity to tell you a bit about myself and why I’m running, as well as what I think we need to do to win.

I was born and brought up in Blickling, where I was home schooled until the age of 12 before earning a fully funded place at the Norwich School, followed by Warwick University. 

I feel very privileged to have had a liberal and emotionally supportive upbringing.  But financially speaking my background is in no way privileged.  Every pound that I’ve spent as an adult, I’ve either borrowed and repaid or earned myself. 

Because we became a single parent family when I was nine, who didn’t own our home, I also learned the effort it takes to thrive and succeed against adversity.

My business career since has been an extraordinary experience.  I was running a million pound turnover business by the time I graduated, and overall I have had a mixture of success in the film, communications and technology sectors.  In fact, to be precise, one good, two bad, and one ugly.  I now deliver workshops and talks from time to time for big companies that are going through digital transformation. 

All the way along I’ve been primarily interested in making things happen.  And this interest was captivated when I ventured into politics.

Six years ago I was a relatively normal person.  Then a few things happened: I met Norman Lamb, the former MP here in North Norfolk and I saw how he and his Liberal Democrat colleagues were making a difference to people’s lives every day.

I also saw how the Conservatives in Westminster were causing unnecessary pain for the most vulnerable in society, while at the same time totally failing to address the big issues of the day – like climate change, the economy, and redefining Britain’s place in the world post Brexit.

I decided enough was enough, and that I wanted to be part of making changes to our politics. I stood for County Council and with the help of my sister Freya, went from fourth to first, with a sizeable majority. We succeeded because we showed up and listened, and then, we fought for things and got things done, and gave people a reason to believe in politics. 

Now I’m ready to take the next step.

I’ve found serving as a county councillor a mixture of fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.  There’s no doubt that as an individual member, holding public office means you can make a difference – sometimes a life changing difference – to people.

But it’s also clear that there is much that is a lot with our country – and it will take changes in policy, as well as working with individuals and communities – to prevent people becoming even more enslaved to poverty, ignorance, and conformity – those powerful words from the preamble to our party’s constitution.

That’s why I was so immensely proud when we took control of North Norfolk District Council in 2019.  Since then, under the leadership of Sarah Butikofer and latterly Tim Adams, we’ve seen what a difference having liberal democrats at the helm can make.  NNDC is now culturally a customer focused organisation. Whilst there’s so much more to do, the work that’s been done in reducing carbon emissions is leading in the region.  There has been ground-breaking work in improving temporary accommodation, and we’re starting to see the steady stream of good news stories in the press that are the result of thousands of hours of economic development work. 

This is all possible because of the skills and experiences of the people who got elected.  And I think I have the skills and experiences that are needed to take the case to Westminster.  I have been in leadership roles for most of my career – with teams as small as two, and as large as 400.  I’ve worked with some of the world’s biggest brands who have paid me to help inspire and develop their leadership teams.  And as well as succeeding, I’ve failed too – and learned a lot in doing so.

Crucially, I also know how to win here in North Norfolk- from my county seat, from the district council elections, and from supporting Norman through what felt like half a dozen but was only actually two general elections and a leadership bid.  I think if he had become leader of our party we’d be in a totally different place now.  His personal integrity, sincerity and commitment to action are exactly what we need more of in politics – these are the things that I think earned him the respect of so many people.   And these attributes are the bedrock of what I think we need in order to build a new kind of politics in this country – one that’s built on truth and authenticity, and informed by life experience, and deep knowledge of the people and communities we seek to represent.

Too many people in Westminster have only known ‘the bubble’ or what it says in the books, or they have had wealth and privilege all their lives.   That doesn’t make them bad people, but it’s not going to help us do what we need as a society in the coming years.  As well as a fundamental moral basis for our politics, we also need serious reform. 

The Tories have got painfully little to show for their period in power. Virtually every public service in the UK is on its knees.   We have a collapsing NHS, an impeding recession, scandal and corruption at every level of government.  And a burning planet where people on normal wages won’t be able to afford to heat their homes.

There are some immediate fixes that are needed to sort out this mess: urgent financial help for the most vulnerable funded through a windfall tax on the big energy companies’ already excessive profits.  But also a retention of the energy price cap for everyone affected by a sudden increase in bills.  This urgent action is essential in order to see off a deeper recession than the one we’re already heading into.

The productivity that’s needed to get our economy going again is a slightly longer-term issue.  But it starts by making sure people feel secure, and well; mentally and physically.  How can people be expected to be economically productive when they’re worrying daily about the cost of living? That’s why housing and the energy cost crisis have got to come first.  And the action we need to take includes an immediate green housebuilding and energy efficiency programme. 

But the only way to really resolve the divided, unequal, sick society that the Tories have created is to focus on long term reform.  The world is complex, and the changes needed to some of our structures in society are going to take time and consensus.  Only reform to the voting system can force political parties to work more constructively on the areas where there is consensus, and stop the lurching from left to right that has let us down for decades. 

This can be done – the opportunity to create lasting change to our voting system could come at the next election, and voting reform must be our red line issue if we hold the balance of power this time. 

After the second world war the UK built some of the world’s finest public institutions.  Many of these now need reform. People from all sorts of sectors are calling time on being taken for granted and the Labour party seems to be actively working against them!  We need to seize this moment to become the main relevant force for renewal in British politics: guided by our values, but driven by our practical commitment to helping people, and getting things done.

Duncan Baker, the alternative up here, is a simple yes man.  He was installed on the condition he vote for Brexit, and he’s done what he’s been told by his bosses ever since.  His media strategy of showing up and taking credit for other people’s work sits somewhere in between photobombing and gaslighting.  However he will not make for an easy opponent.  But we have enough knowledge of his failings, and many more positive things to say besides, about what we want to do differently, to take him on.  This includes campaigns that I am already leading on, such as the Holt Bank Hub, tackling the dentist shortage, and bringing food hubs to North Norfolk.  It’s through doing this, and the way we do it by involving people in making the changes they want to see, that we can change our politics for the better.

I want to be a part of making this happen: first by winning back the seat here in my home constituency of North Norfolk, and then by working on bringing about a new kind of politics in Westminster. 

I genuinely think this is possible; I also think that in the past year I and many of you here have made significant headway in building the team that can make it happen.  Our next mission is to hold on to the district council in May – and use this as a staging post for the increased likelihood of a snap election within the next 18 months.

Above all, I want to reduce the power of unearned wealth and authority, that restricts so many people from living in a fair, free and open society.  I am deeply driven to do this by my personal story.  And as someone who knows North Norfolk and how to win political campaigns here, who comes from here and has been present, on the ground here for several years, I am best positioned to stand up for the liberal values we all share, and champion them tirelessly in Westminster.  This is a vitally important points in our politics, and I hope you will support me.  Thank you.