Peter Hoskin

The man who hopes to unseat Harman

The man who hopes to unseat Harman
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The papers have been stuffed with articles recently about the current crop of Tory party candidates – but few have been as readable, or as encouraging, as Rachel Williams' profile of Andy Stranack in today's Guardian.  Stranack is the Tory PPC in Camberwell and Peckham – Harriet Harman's seat – and his background is really quite remarkable:

"In 2001, Stranack ignored the concerns of his family ('They thought I was mad'), gave up his £30,000 a year council policy officer job in Croydon, south London, sold his maisonette, and moved to the borough's deprived Monks Hill estate. He stayed there, living on the poverty line and doing church-backed community work, for six years. He only moved – just down the road – because of a threatening call from a local drug dealer.

Stranack, 39, is now preparing to do the same on an estate in Peckham. And the hoodie-wearing church worker, who earns just £4,600 a year and relies on disability living allowance to enable him to run a car, is standing in next year's general election as an unlikely Tory prospective parliamentary candidate – up against the leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, in Labour's safest seat in London...

...'Until you've seen [severe poverty], 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."

Stranack has been working with Iain Duncan Smith and the Centre for Social Justice for the past few years.  His presence as a candidate gives you even more hope that the Tory leadership is taking their "compassionate conservatism" agenda seriously.