Kemi is our new candidate for the Saffron Walden Constituency (which covers Uttlesford and the rural north/west of Chelmsford) and was selected by members of the Saffron Walden Constituency Conservatives as our candidate for the General Election.
Currently Deputy leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly, she has been a director at the Spectator magazine and an associate director at Coutts.
“I am delighted, thrilled and excited to have been selected to stand as the Conservative candidate for the Saffron Walden constituency. This is the best place to live in the country. It would be an honour and a privilege to represent you. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming, I feel like I've come home. Sir Alan Haselhurst will be a tough act to follow. Like him, I will be a strong voice in the constituency for local people if elected. I understand the issues facing rural areas such as Uttlesford and north west Chelmsford and will be a dedicated constituency MP.”
Local Conservative party chairman, Cllr Keith Eden said that "Kemi brings a unique blend of skills - an engineering degree, experience in industry, mother of two, and the energy and determination to succeed. All aligned with an infectious enthusiasm and sense of humour ."
I have had so many emails and letters from local residents all over the constituency and endeavoured to answer them all personally. Please see below the answers to my most frequently asked questions:
What are you going to do for the constituency? Aren’t you more familiar with the issues facing Londoners?
I’m an engineer by background and have direct professional experience of a lot of the issues that people raise with me on the doorstep here such as broadband access, increasing train capacity on the Cambridge to Liverpool St line, aircraft noise from Stansted and airport expansion.
Many policy areas are of equal importance wherever you are in the country – a strong NHS, for example, matters whether you’d in town or the countryside. I was a school governor for eight years and served on the board of a housing association for nearly a decade. I believe this experience in the real world equips me to tackle many local issues, such as education funding and school places in Saffron Walden or housing issues.
It’s also important to remember that, while this is of course a rural constituency, only a small minority of people work on the land. The majority of constituents are commuters to Chelmsford, Cambridge or London and their experience of building a career and simply wanting to be able to pursue their aspirations and provide for their families is my experience too.
My first job was at McDonald’s. I know what it’s like to struggle, and to succeed, and I will work to ensure that everyone in the constituency has the freedom and opportunity to follow their ambitions.
Aren’t you just a professional politician?
I am not a professional politician. I have spent over 15 years working in technology and only one year as a full-time London Assembly member. I believe my diverse professional, voluntary and political experience will be an asset for residents of Saffron Walden constituency. If I am elected as your MP, I will of course resign from the Assembly.
Where do you stand on Brexit?
I voted Leave. It was a decision that I did not take lightly, and I recognise that many people wrestled with it before deciding. Like many households, ours was divided on the issue and my husband Hamish supported Remain. I understand why he and many others made that choice and it’s important now that we move on and secure the best possible future for the country.
It won’t be easy – the negotiations are going to be hard and all of us in politics will have to pull together to get the right outcome. I would like to have free trade with the EU and am confident that this is achievable but I am certain that staying in the European Union would have been damaging for the country in the long term.
What are your views on animal welfare?
Animal welfare is very important to me. I have campaigned to stop animal abuse, working with activists in London to stamp out dog fighting. I recognise that there are specific challenges in this constituency on animal welfare, such as hare coursing, and I am equally committed to working with the authorities and local people to put an end to all forms of abuse.
Fox-hunting has of course come into focus in this campaign. Hunting is largely a pest control issue and I am satisfied that it is as humane as the alternatives so my instinct would be to vote to repeal the ban. This is, however, an emotive subject and on this issue I think it would be important for me to listen to local residents.
What are your priorities for social care?
I am a big believer in inter-generational fairness. Many older people are not getting the care they deserve without making a huge sacrifice in terms of the assets they have worked hard to accumulate, and equally many younger people are struggling to achieve the start in life that previous generations enjoyed. I graduated just after the Dotcom boom and for many years was unable to make any pension provision – all my money went towards buying a flat – and I know it is going to be even tougher for recent graduates to do the same.
I feel strongly that the war generation, who sacrificed so much, must be supported. It’s also fair to ask the generation that followed, which didn’t have the experience of rationing and in many cases made a lot of money from property, to put something back. They already do so – often by directly supporting younger relatives – but I’m convinced that we have exhausted the demands we can make from that group, which takes us to the social care reforms being discussed in this campaign.
I feel the Conservative policy on social care strikes the right balance between confronting the immense challenge of people enjoying much longer retirements (which of course is a great thing) and recognising their right to enjoy and pass on the assets that they spent their lives working for.
Is Theresa May the right person to be running the country?
Theresa May does a really good job under difficult circumstances. In particular, the way that she has accepted the mandate delivered by the people last June and is working hard to achieve it. She is a principled politician, who understands the challenges that this country faces and the need to create a system that works for everyone and addresses areas of unfairness.
I admire her work ethic and her honesty: she never shies away from difficult truths even if that honesty reduces her support. The Labour manifesto offers goodies for everyone but with no thought about how to pay for it. Theresa May offers an aspirational vision of the country, but one rooted in reality.
Where do you stand on education?
Education funding formulas are a notoriously difficult area and I will, if returned as your MP, campaign locally to get the best possible deal for the Saffron Walden constituency.
But it is impossible to divorce this from the wider economy: the amount we spend on interest payments on the national debt exceeds the entire education budget for primary to tertiary education! The key to increasing the resources we can devote to education is in bringing down the deficit so we can reduce the debt. Every extra bank holiday or un-costed spending pledge by Labour equates to more debt and less money for vital services.
Do you agree with cuts in welfare such as the end to free school meals in primary schools?
Free meals and winter fuel payments should only go to people who need them. I don’t want to abolish free school meals but to ensure that limited resources go to the right places. Meal subsidies for families perfectly able to make their own arrangements would be better going back into the system, to fund teachers’ salaries or better facilities. There is no reason for my daughter to receive free meals and I know a lot of other fortunate people feel the same about the benefits they automatically receive.
Many people on the doorstep tell me that they don’t want the Winter Fuel Payment but have no way of paying it back. Many make donations to charity (although one constituent told me that he spent the money at the Ritz) but this is not how taxpayers’ money should be spent.
For me it’s a moral issue. When my daughter Eni was born, I was entitled to free prescriptions and took advantage of this. But, I decided not to fill in the forms when Ralph came along as I had already cost the NHS a great deal of money and was in the fortunate position of being able to pay. I know a lot of other people in my position agree. Conservative policy in this area is to ensure that people who need this kind of support – and only those people – receive it.
What are your views on housing and development?
There is a national planning framework with which all district councils must comply. This is a beautiful rural constituency and I share the concerns of people worried about urban sprawl, who wish to preserve the character of this wonderful place. Communities must be preserved and I share the view that society is a compact between the dead, the living and the unborn – we are custodians of what we have and must all work to ensure we pass on something of value to succeeding generations.
That said, the next generation is with us and there is a great deal of pressure on housing supply with people living longer and the rise of single-person households. I recognise that people don’t want their children to have to move far away to get on the housing ladder and I intend to work in support of councillors and residents alike as they confront this ongoing challenge. Where development is necessary, I believe we should be ambitious. New housing, even affordable housing, does not have to be ugly: we should be building beautiful new houses in keeping with our wonderful heritage. Those new buildings should also be part of existing communities, not tucked away unobtrusively. I don’t believe in segregation, so I don’t believe in council estates.
Are you going to live in the constituency?
It’s really important for an MP to have a home in the constituency they represent. We are spoilt for choice in this beautiful part of the world but my husband and I have already found a lovely home for the family in the constituency if I am elected.
Obviously MPs have to be in Westminster to represent their constituents. Therefore, like most MPs, I will spend half the week in London when Parliament is sitting. As I have a young family they will need to be in London with me. But for three days each week and during the recess we will be in the constituency. All the family are excited about becoming part of the local community.
You were “parachuted” in, wouldn’t we be better served by a local candidate?
As with any job, prospective MPs apply where the vacancies are and then it’s up to the Constituency Associations to choose the best candidate. This is not a formality and I was certainly not “parachuted” in – the nomination for Saffron Walden was hotly contested and all the candidates were subject to a rigorous selection process. Many of the Association members here have family connections to the locality going back hundreds of years and it is a great honour to have been selected. We are looking forward to making the area our home and, if I am successful, I will represent the whole community - not just as your MP but as your neighbour!
Any constituency will have a huge range of local issues and local interests. The key to be a successfully MP is being able to effectively represent those diverse interests both local and nationally. I believe that I am that candidate.