Veronica King is one of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) profiled in the new Young Fabians pamphlet 'Fifteen for 2015'. You can read the pamphlet here.
Politics transforms people. It can turn the apathetic non-voter into a firebrand campaigner and teach the cynical to believe again.
It can also make some people very, very angry.
“Five years ago I wouldn’t have even thought of running for parliament,” says Veronica. “But I’ve worked for charities serving people affected by dementia and the childcare sector, and I’ve seen the impact of cuts on the most vulnerable. This government has chosen to cut our local council budget by 43% while at the same time giving a tax cut to millionaires”.
It’s clear from her tone she thinks this is beyond the pale. “The reason I’m Labour is that it’s the party of social equality, and we all benefit from a more equal society, just as we all suffer from a more unequal society,” she says.
Veronica’s back story is a curious blend of Old Labour and New Labour typecasts. Born into an Irish Catholic family in Leeds, Veronica remembers stories her grandmother used to tell her of struggling to make ends meet before the birth of the welfare state. “The government of 1945 changed things,” she recounts. “The welfare state and NHS changed lives, and my grandmother never forgot that. I grew up with those Labour values”.
After graduating from the University of Liverpool, Veronica served two terms as Vice-President (Welfare) of the National Union of Students, and has followed in the footsteps of other NUS alumni and New Labour legends: including Jim Murphy, Stephen Twigg, and Jack Straw, in standing for Labour at the parliamentary level.
Yet Veronica cannot be blithely dismissed as another career politician. Since finishing her two terms at the NUS, she has worked for a number of charities at the sharp end of the coalition government’s programme of cuts. Getting elected is the single biggest thing she can do to reverse the damage she’s seen first-hand.
“There is such a strain on carers,” she says, referring to the army of over six million Britons who look after their own and others’ loved ones in need. “We need to do more to make sure they don’t get pushed past breaking point. For example, by giving them more entitlements around flexible working so they don’t have to choose between giving up their jobs and giving up time caring. I think that’s an area that has been neglected for a long time and all of us at some point will be carers for someone, so changing things will help everybody”.
Another priority for Veronica in parliament is the NHS. In her constituency of Elmet and Rothwell she’s seen the effects of Tory cuts from a different angle: in the drain of talented doctors and nurses from state-run hospitals. “I met two NHS nurses the other day, and they told me they’ve had to move to the private sector because they cannot afford to live and work with the cuts the Tories have imposed. Our number one priority has to be investing in the NHS, and that means investing in its workforce, too”.
In tune with many other candidates, Veronica believes Labour is at its best when it’s at its boldest, and that it will take a strong and united Labour party to do what’s needed to stop the rot introduced by the Tories from corroding society. She praises Ed Miliband for keeping the often boisterous factions within the party in line and making it clear who Labour stands for.
She’s equally impassioned in her condemnation of those who seem determined to divide us. “I’ve been an activist for a long time and fought in so many elections. I remember knocking on doors in the pouring rain and then coming home and seeing a high profile MP attacking our message, attacking our leadership, and that diminishes the work of activists the party relies on.”
Veronica is not going to allow such skulduggery to upend her campaign. She’s a fierce activist with a clear vision of what she wants to achieve for her constituents and her country. I wouldn’t want to be standing in her way.
Louie Woodall is a member of the Young Fabians Executive Committee