Here in South West Surrey, we have local elections next month, on Thursday May 2nd, for Waverley borough council,and also for the Haslemere town council – and I’m a Liberal Democrat candidate, for both.
For Waverley, I’m a candidate in the ward of Haslemere East and Grayswood:
(For the town of Haslemere, I’m standing in the Critchmere ward).
So – who am I? What drives me, as a candidate?
From the time I was old enough to vote, I was actively involved in South African electoral politics, and in social justice movements of the Catholic Church, in an attempt to combat the evils of apartheid. This left me with a lifelong commitment to standard liberal values, and a concern for the oppressed and downtrodden, in every form. It was natural then, that when I moved to the UK in 2003, I identified most closely with the Liberal Democrats.
By ancestry, I am a mixture of four distinct European lines: English, Irish, German and Dutch. I therefore see myself as “European” at least as much as “British”, and am a committed remainer.
I was married at an early age, and have two magnificent daughters, Barbara in South Africa, and Robynn in Switzerland, and between them, four devoted grandchildren. However, when my marriage broke down after ten years, I finally had the courage to admit that I was gay. After coming to the UK, I linked up with a group of LGBT Catholics, and for several years was an activist for LGBT inclusion in church. More recently though, after the disaster of the Brexit referendum and a personal medical condition (see below), I have been less active in LGBT issues, but am stil part of a team preparing for a conference of European LGBT Christian organisations, to be held in London in July. I also remain a committed Catholic, participaing actively in the local parish.
Almost five years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, a GIST, which resulted in surgery that also removed my stomach. Since then, I have been actively involved in the specialist charity, GIST Support UK (soon to be renamed GIST Cancer UK). Since January 2018, I have been a trustee of this charity, with particular responsibility for direct patient support, by email and a telephone help-line support.
Professionally, I spent most of my working career as a market research analyst in South Africa, before becoming increasingly concerned that this was largely irrelevant to the country’s serious social problems. Wanting to make a more direct contribution to society, I retrained as a teacher, and later worked in schools in Johannesburg, and also in Surrey and in London.
Now mostly retired, I have been a resident of Haslemere since 2007, where I now do a little part-time work delivering medicines for the local Haslemere Pharmacy. This has left me acutely conscious that although Haslemere is in general terms a comfortable, typically English middle-class town, this is not true for all our residents. Our community includes a substantial number of elderly people, some of whom live in difficult circumstances, and also people who are struggling financially (as evidenced by the need for a food bank), young people who cannot afford the high cost of housing, and even some refugees and other immigrants. If elected, I want to make sure that decisions we take, are in the best interests of all our residents, not just those of the favoured majority.