Camberwell and Peckham, where I am the Conservative candidate, is one of the poorest constituencies in Britain.
It also has a well-known Member of Parliament in Westminster, having been represented since 1982 by Harriet Harman – Deputy Leader and Chair of the Labour Party, Minister for Women and Equality and current Leader of the House of Commons.
But people on the doorstep tell me they want a new type of MP. And, as someone who has overcome a disability, lived beneath the poverty line and worked on some of Britain’s most deprived estates, that’s exactly what I think I can offer the people of Camberwell and Peckham.
10 years ago, I was working as a Policy Officer for Croydon Council, writing cultural and sports strategies. Every Friday I volunteered to work at a youth club on deprived estates.
As I worked with the young people I realised that the (well-intentioned) policies I was writing for the Council were having no real impact on the Estate. This frustrated me, so I decided to take a radical decision. I sold my house, gave up my job and worked as a community worker living full-time on the estate.
It wasn’t an easy experience. My life was threatened by drug dealers, and I remember watching helplessly as one of the young people I mentored was beaten up by three adults, on the same night his 20 year old cousin was stabbed to death. My eyes were truly opened to how broken parts of Britain are.
But I knew something could be done to help, and I’m proud that – working alongside the Resident’s Association – we were able to set up a number of vital community services that made a real difference for the people living there. And I saw so many young people’s lives turned around simply by having an adult male role model in their lives.
It’s this experience that taught me that just passing some more laws from a Whitehall office will never be the key to solving the social problems that blight our estates. We’ve all got to come together, and work together, if we’re going to get to the root of the issues.
To find out more about Andy Stranack watch his campaign video.