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BIOGRAPHY

I grew up in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, where my mother was a youth worker and my father, a teacher. Aylesbury is a market town within London’s orbit, known for its beautiful vale, which was garrisoned for Parliament during the English Civil War. I read History at Balliol College, Oxford, where I was taught by the very special Martin Conway and mentored by Lyndal Roper, “Professor of Witchcraft” and now the first woman to hold the Regius Chair in History.

Graduating from university in 2003, the year Tony Blair took us into the Iraq War, I became active in politics and sought to express this through training as a lawyer. I became a barrister (a specialist courtroom advocate – wig, gown, etc) in 2006 and spent the next several years practising Employment and Education-rights Law in tribunals and courts across the country.

I felt myself called to practise Law for several reasons. Each year as a child my parents, both Irish and Roman Catholic, would take us “home” to spend the summer in Belfast. In the family home in East Belfast I heard stories of ‘The Troubles’ and our family’s work there as teachers, doctors and lawyers. It was the 1980s; violence and its threat were a present reality. I learned much from extraordinary great-aunts who visited our home; strong Ulster women who had lost husbands or pursued professions and never married. I learned how my Gran had graduated top in the whole of Ireland in her Law exams yet worked as a secretary, raising four children alone. I spent time with my aunt, a talented bank clerk who, on becoming pregnant with her first child, was legally dismissed and never worked again. Although I was too young to grasp the full indignity of these stories, the urgency with which women – my women – shared them with me spoke to a fierce injustice.

I was also raised as a practising Catholic. In school and at weekly Mass I drew inspiration from stories of second chances, justice and redemption. I learned that things don’t have to be the way they are, but they don’t change by themselves.

Studying Law in London, and later practising as a barrister at 11KBW Chambers, was a phenomenal experience. I worked with (and against) the most incisive legal minds in our country. I fought big cases on Equal Pay, sexual discrimination and the rights of children with special needs. Yet in much of this work I felt further from justice, not closer to it. There is a beginning to the story of each wrong.  There is a point at which it can be prevented, not simply litigated.

This, to me, is the point of politics.

In the spring of 2010, I returned home to Aylesbury, where a small cadre of Labour Party activists had begun to organise for the upcoming General Election. I joined their number, helping to organise a strong campaign which led us, the following year, to win our first Council seats in a generation. Political organising enabled me to see the world with fresh eyes. For the first time, I experienced the power of a small group of committed people working together to make change. We ventured into the unknown, risked failure, and committed to action in pursuit of a shared goal. It transformed my sense of what was possible.

In October 2010, fellow organisers Blair McDougall and Jonathan Cox introduced me to David Miliband MP, who had recently failed in his bid to become leader of the Labour Party. David, with others, committed building an organisation which would take the best organising work started through his campaign to inject new energy and ideas into national politics. I decided to join them. It was work I would pursue for the next five years. During that time I served as a trainee Organiser with London Citizens; Lead Organiser on community projects in Walthamstow, north London, with Stella Creasy MP; co-ordinator of the Safe Nights Out project with young women in Brixton, south London; Organiser for the national campaign to combat rogue practices in the payday lending industry; and National Director (CEO) and Executive Board Member of Movement for Change.

I am blessed to have participated in national politics at such a crucial moment in the Labour Movement’s history. With generous support from the US-UK Fulbright Commission, since January 2016 I’ve worked as a Visiting Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. It has been given me the space to work through how best to commit my time and energy going forward.

I’m very friendly and welcome new connections, friends and ideas. Among other things, I’m interested in inequity; history; conflict and negotiation; children (including but not limited to my own!); hill-walking; wild swimming; political organizing; and ethics in various contexts. Please get in touch.

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