THE Conservative parliamentary candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, a safe Labour seat, admitted it would be a tough fight to the polls, but is ready for the battle.
Resham Kotecha, an economics graduate from Cambridge University, began working in parliament as a researcher for Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, who recently claimed poor people did not know how to cook.
“It was through doing that I could see the difference you can make to people’s lives in just one day. I know exactly what an MP does every day,” she told Eastern Eye.
Kotecha, a twin who lives with her parents in their north London home, now works as an economics adviser to disgraced Braintree MP Brooks Newmark. The politician was embroiled in a sexting scandal last year where he exchanged suggestive pictures over the internet with a reporter posing as a young Tory PR woman. He has since announced he will quit parliament in May.
Despite living 26 miles north of the south London constituency, represented by Labour stalwart Tessa Jowell, Kotecha strongly believes “you don’t have to live in an area to fight for someone’s best interests”.
Jowell, who has been the MP for the area for the past two decades, also lives north of the river. She is standing down in May, but will run for mayor of London in 2016.
The Tories only got 22 per cent of the votes in the 2010 election in Dulwich and West Norwood, trailing behind the Liberal Democrats.
“Yes, it will be a tough fight but I am feeling ready for that,” she said.
The economics graduate is standing against Labour candidate Helen Hayes, a chartered town planner who has been a local councillor since 2010. The Conservative candidate has been pounding the streets trying to convince locals she will fight for more schools, more GP appointments and better services from the two councils the constituency straddles. She is also involved in Women2win, a campaign to elect more Tory women into parliament.
“I am trying my level best to make sure people from all backgrounds are applying, but it’s important to remember that my parents came here as immigrants. They worked 18-hour days to be able to afford my sister and I, and they only had us after 13 years of marriage because they could not afford to do so,” Kotecha explained.
“I was fortunate to go to a good school, but what I want is for every child to be able to go to a good school. For me, what the Conservative party offers is that aspiration that we will give everybody the opportunity to have the best life they can, and then you take it from there.”
She believes Indian ideals are very much aligned with the party – although Asians traditionally have voted Labour. However the notion of pursuing a political career is often met with bemusement by members of the community, Kotecha, who is on the management committee of the Conservative Friends of India, said.
“I know a lot of Indian parents who, if you say to them I’m going in to politics, they say: ‘Oh, why not medicine or law or banking?’It’s not been considered by our communities as a viable career path.
“We’re probably the first generation where being a politician is something that is seen as a good career choice rather than something you didn’t really do if you had a proper education.
“So it’s partly about our community mindset. It’s partly about saying: ‘Look, we want all people; you don’t have to be just white middle-aged and male to be a politician’. So we are really trying to open up. It’s partly about the Conservatives saying: ‘We are open to everyone’.”
David Cameron recently said he wanted to see a British Asian prime minister in his lifetime at the GG2 Leadership Awards, hosted by EE’s sister title in November, when Sajid Javid, the first Asian secretary of state, topped a power list of the most influential Asians in the UK.
Kotecha, who is privately educated and trained as a semiprofessional dancer before starting university, cites Margaret Thatcher as well as Baroness Jenkins as one of her idols. “She (Thatcher) made difficult decisions and she stood by them,” she asserted.
In fact, Thatcher moved to a five-bedroom house in a gated community in Dulwich the day she left Downing Street in November 1990.
If she doesn’t win the seat in May, Kotecha intends to enter the private sector using her economics background.
“There’s a lot we are doing on the doorstep to help. If it’s not enough this time, we will explain to people that’s what we are doing for them next time, and that’s something to build on,” she told EE.