Friday, November 27, 2009

Hoodie on benefits to stand against Harriet Harman

mucked up the scheduling on this earlier on, lets try again...

Andy Stranack, a 39 year old church worker who lives in a deprived South London estate, is standing as the Conservative candidate against Harriet Harman for Camberwell and Peckham next year. The Guardian had a fascinating piece about him on Wednesday:

In 1998, after fulfilling a drunken promise to attend an Alpha course meeting, he became a practising Christian, and through that began helping at a youth club in Monks Hill.

It was then, even as he was securing millions of pounds of lottery funding for a new swimming pool for the borough, that the doubt set in. Set against the poverty that confronted him on the estate, the achievements of his job seemed a little divorced from reality.

"Until you've seen it, you don't know it," Stranack says. "I remember early on going into someone's home and there was a baby crawling round. There were animal faeces on the floor, and no curtains, no carpet. It was a real vivid picture for me. Having come from a fairly middle-class background, I just did not know that this deprivation was going on. I was thinking, 'These things don't marry up very well: I'm writing policy and I think things are getting better, but actually it's not having much impact on these people's lives.'"

Stranack was happy in his career in local government and says he would have probably become a director of leisure services by now. But he felt there was something more that needed to be done. So he took his "step of faith" and moved on to the estate, while also undergoing theology training, and set about working out what residents wanted him to provide.

It's not often I turn to the Guardians 'society' section for encouragement, but this story, plus their Public Services Awards were quite an inspiring read for a Wednesday. People and projects up and down the country making a difference to people's lives. Well done all. Wouldn't it be good to have some of these stories on the front pages instead of silcone bags and stabbings?

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