Rupa Huq is one of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) profiled in the new Young Fabians pamphlet 'Fifteen for 2015'. You can read the pamphlet here.
When you first meet Rupa, you can’t help but feel at ease around her and inspired by her energy and affability. She’s charismatic, approachable and fun- qualities that make her great company, which is probably half the battle when you’re a candidate trying to convince floating voters in one of the most uncertain constituencies in this election. On the list of 106 Labour target seats, Ealing Central and Acton is number 56. If Rupa wins, Labour will pass the tipping point and Ed Miliband will be in Number 10.
Rupa’s campaign focuses primarily on local issues impacting people in the area: housing and the NHS: “People here have seen two A&Es close already and another two downgraded. These are local services that people value and they are disappearing before their eyes under the Tories. The other key issue here is the private rented sector. Ealing Central and Acton has one of the largest numbers of private renters in the country and we have the highest rent paid by any marginal constituency in the country, at over £1,400 per month.”
Rupa understands that it’s going to be a tough battle here, but she hopes that her status as a local resident will help legitimise her offer: “Ealing Central and Acton is a difficult seat to win and a difficult seat to keep, so if I do win here there will be a lot of constituency work to do. Ealing has been my home for over 40 years- I’m eager to be an accessible member of parliament. I’ll always fight for the best interests of Ealing and Acton as this is my home.”
“Three generations of Huqs are now here,” she says referring to her parents who settled here from Bangladesh, her two sisters Nutun and Konnie (of Blue Peter fame) and her equally ebullient eleven year old son Rafi.
Rupa is well known in the Young Labour community, and her experiences as a teenager definitely shaped her beliefs. “At school I was known as ‘Red Rupa’ for being quite contrary in my politics lessons. I was 15 when the 1987 elections were held, so too young to vote. Neil Kinnock did one of his ‘heroic-in-defeat’ speeches – “If they win tomorrow I warn you not to be sick, not to be old, not to be poor” – which was really rousing.”
Despite the fact that Rupa is an Oxbridge graduate, she’s no career politician, with a long and distinguished professional life outside the bubble, as a lecturer in sociology. “I’m a public sector worker and mum, which keeps me grounded. I do worry about the narrowing of the political class; we need more people who’ve had everyday life experience in Parliament. I suppose I’d be Kingston University’s voice at Westminster. It’s important to have a diversity of backgrounds. We currently have three leaders who have only ever worked for their parties, which can’t be healthy. You want people who use public services and don’t just talk about them theoretically.”
Rupa’s tenacity and ambition are abundantly clear when asked about what a Conservative victory might mean for this seat, and for the country more broadly.
“There’s a progressive majority in this country and it’s up to the Labour party and its supporters to give voice to those people by returning to government. I don’t want Labour party activists to think on May 8 that we lost but we could have done more. The consequences of the Tories in power would be nothing short of disastrous. They have a fundamentally different vision of society to us. We want a strong NHS, they want to fragment and weaken it. We want a more equal society. We want a compassionate society in which people are cared for and the Tories want successful people to prosper because they think a rising tide for the rich will lift all boats when the all the evidence from the last few decades is that trickle down economics doesn’t work.”
It’s a big difference. “Ealing Central and Acton is the most important seat in the most important election of my lifetime and I want to be part of reversing the decline we’ve seen.”
Rishi Patel is Vice Chair of the Young Fabians Communications Network