by Hayley Robinson
Excited – that is how Cllr Angela Harrison says she feels about being selected by the local Labour Party to fight for the Sittingbourne and Sheppey seat at the general election.
The Sheerness West councillor, who was one of three candidates – all women – in the running to replace Derek Wyatt, was selected after she was grilled by members during two meetings held Sheerness and Sittingbourne last week.
In her speech, she stressed her confidence that Labour could retain the seat and that she was particularly interested in improving community care for elderly people and for better housing in the local area.
Cllr Harrison, who has lived in the constituency all her life and has served as a borough councillor since 1984, says she sees her ambition to be the local MP is a chance to add value to all the work she has done at Swale House.
She said: “Of course you can do a great deal as a councillor. However, there are times when I have been fighting for individuals when I have felt I could do so much more to influence officialdom if I had the extra power and influence of an MP.
"My mum said to me once 'don’t go promising anything’ and I don’t. The only thing I promise is that I will do my best. Sometimes it’s good enough, sometimes it isn’t.
“I’d like to make sure that Sittingbourne is not missing out. There are plans for the town centre but there are areas like Milton and Murston which are on par with Sheerness in terms of deprivation and we must not let them go down.
"Sheppey didn’t have anything so it was very easy to say they need help but we now need to make sure that Sittingbourne is not the poor relation.”
Cllr Harrison has always had a busy political lifestyle. She was the agent for Derek Wyatt in the 2001 and 2005 General Elections and from 2005 to 2009 she was a county councillor.
In addition to these party political roles, she has worked within the local community, on the Amicus Horizon management board, as a school governor and on the management of the Freedom Centre in Sheerness.
Outgoing MP Derek Wyatt said: “I am delighted that the local party has selected such a good candidate. Angela was my very well organised agent.
Now it is her turn. She will make an excellent MP.”
Local Labour Party chairman Cllr Roger Truelove said: “This area needs an MP like Angela to carry on the work that Derek has done.
“I am convinced that her methods of behind-the-scenes persuasion will achieve far more for Sittingbourne and Sheppey than a more loud grandstanding approach. Her approach is totally unselfish.
“She has got no idea what MPs earn and what expenses they are allowed.
“Her commitment to serve is utterly genuine.”
First with the news: Cllr Harrison’s nomination was reported on this website soon after it was announced on Friday night.
Question and answer session with Cllr Angela Harrison:
Q) What do you think we should do in terms of Afghanistan?
A) I don’t think I’m clear enough on what we’re doing out there. When I read the newspaper or watch the news you get one person saying we need to keep them (our boys) out there for the next 20 years and I’m thinking why? Then you get someone else saying we need to pull out. So who is right?
Q) Should we adopt the Euro?
A) I’ve not been convinced yet. I’m quite happy with pounds and pence as I’m sure most people in this country are. When Gordon Brown was chancellor he said when the time is right and all the conditions have been met we will go to the British people and consider it. But I am proud of my country and my heritage and I don’t see the need for it.
Q) Who’s to blame for the financial crisis and why didn’t the government rein-in the bankers sooner?
A) I feel desperately sorry for people who have suffered during the recession - there were a lot of repossession back in the '90s and I think why did people not learn their lessons then? If you can’t afford it, don’t have it. I blame Margaret Thatcher - it was a very selfish society she brought in in my view and there’s still a lot of it about now although some of the community-minded spirit is returning. People have become very materialistic.
Q) How would you encourage someone who has lost their job in the recession to vote Labour?
A) Gordon Brown has done so much to try and help people get back into work - like Job Centre plus in terms of making sure people have the right skills, putting CVs together etc. However, there are a lot of people who lost their jobs because companies used the recession as an excuse.
Q) Who would you say is your political hero/heroine?
A) I suppose Dennis Skinner because he is what I would call a good community MP and that’s what I want to be - a good community MP.
Q) Tory candidate Gordon Henderson says he will commute to Westminster everyday if elected; will you do the same?
A) Probably and if I had to stay in London I’m sure there would be a B&B somewhere.
Q) What do you think of the new rules banning MPs from employing family members?
A) There were a few bad apples and now it seems it’s a case of let's throw the whole barrel out. I think that if an MP wanted to have a member of their family working for them they should go to the House of Commons and say I’ve interviewed so and so now you agree the terms and conditions and the salary and draw up a contract then they’re not the MP’s employee and I personally think that would work a lot better as it makes it more transparent.
Q) In a sentence, why should the people of Sittingbourne and Sheppey vote for you?
A) If you have a problem you want to be able to go to someone who you now you believe will do their very best to help you and I have a proven track record of doing just that.