Stella Creasy is the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Walthamstow and is Labour’s spokesperson on Competition and Consumer Affairs as part of the Shadow Business Innovation and Skills team. Whilst in Parliament she has campaigned on issues such as payday lending, violence against women and girls as well as supporting local volunteering in Walthamstow through the 7Days4Stow project.
Before being elected, Stella was the Head of Campaigns at the Scout Association, working to support young people across the country in developing their own advocacy skills. She has a PhD in Social Psychology from the LSE and served as Mayor and Chief Whip on the London Borough of Waltham Forest during her tenure as a Councillor from 2002-06.
I had the opportunity to interview Stella Creasy on a sunny day in June, one of the first sunny days of the month so it had to be a good sign. I’ve been in business for almost 10 years and one of the lessons that I’ve learnt is how important it is to have ambassadors and advocates who are tirelessly champion diversity in business. Stella Creasy is one such politician; her passion and desire to assert change were palpable. She is a politician who does not stand for mere rhetoric, she stands for change, she stands for empowerment for all, she stands for the many causes that she gives a voice to.
Why did you decide to enter politics?
I wanted to change the world and I’ve seen a change whilst being in politics. I’m more convinced now than ever before that change is possible despite all of the issues that surround politics. It’s healthy that people disagree, it gives room for progress and insight into how we can assert greater change in our communities.
You have campaigned passionately for women’s rights? What are the current issues that you feel still need more attention in the public domain? (Eg. FGM, Domestic Violence)
All of the issues that I campaign for are important, I am so lucky that I work for some amazing people so the task of raising awareness regarding FGM and domestic violence is easier but there is still a long way to go. Power is still unequally distributed and until there is more equality for women the campaign continues. Feminism is in essence is about power, shifting power in a social, cultural and economic sense so that the benefits of a growing society can be enjoyed by all. Whilst power is held in the hands of few there can never really be economic progress. People need to understand that Equality is an economic issue, the most successful societies are those who give equal rights to women and those who celebrate diversity, and these societies prosper.
What is your vision for Walthamstow? (A hub for commerce or culture or both?)
I recently spoke to a group of business women at the Walthamstow Women in Business Forum who were all enthusiastic and passionate about starting and growing their businesses in the borough of Waltham Forest. It made me feel so proud that Walthamstow has such a bright future ahead of it from an enterprise perspective, a future that will be seen regionally, nationally and eventually internationally!
I understand that I am not a representative of my constituents in the sense that Walthamstow is such a diverse area, rich in cultural heritage that it would not be possible for me to represent everyone but I am an advocate, an ambassador for the people of Walthamstow. Without the people I wouldn’t be in post and I do all I can to be the voice of the people who have voted for me.
Enterprise growth and development seems to be happening at an exciting rate in Walthamstow, is enough being done to encourage young people and women to start their own businesses in the borrow?
Much in the same way as I support women in business, I support all enterprising behaviour that will encourage growth and give opportunities to the young people of Walthamstow. There are still too many issues surrounding access to finance for women and so on but again this goes back to the need to strive for equality in all areas of commerce.
You clearly use social media as an effective means of communicating with your constituents and the public but in 2013 you had to deal with online trolls who reacted to your participation in the campaign to have Jane Austen on the £10. How did that change your view of social media if at all? Were the online trolls indicative (perhaps not as extreme) of the everyday sexism that you may/may not have encountered in your career?
Everyday Sexism exists both on and offline unfortunately, and unfortunately I have experienced it, it’s often the minority trying to shut down the voices of those who are trying to assert change for a greater good. I deal with those people on social media in a variety of ways, sometimes I send them a picture of a kitten to calm them down, as quite often they are just angry with life, other times its necessary to block them.
I really admire Laura Bates who founded the Everyday Sexism project and support her work which seeks to change the sexist culture which wants to silence the voices of female empowerment. Don’t get me wrong I love men, we need men to be part of such projects, this is not just a female movement it affects everybody.
I wanted to change the world and I’ve seen a change whilst being in politics. I’m more convinced now than ever before that change is possible despite all of the issues that surround politics.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Getting enough sleep!
I don’t want people to believe that you have to be lucky to succeed. It takes a lot of hard work and without the correct framework of support it can be overwhelming but I have a great team, a partner, family and friends who do support me.
But I would still love more sleep.
Are you concerned about the rise of far right parties across Europe and closer to home like UKIP?
Labour are not going to give up. We have a great team which will work hard to get elected in 2015. I stand by my view that UKIP is unpatriotic. I recently attended a meeting with a group of Windrush generation nurses who expressed their fears and concerns about the current political climate. They remember what it was like when they arrived in Britain all those years ago and can see it happening again now. It’s sad but I am not going to give up on Britain! Change can happen! We need to show people that they still have a stake in the world. That Britain still matters! We’re the nation that brought the world the world wide web through our very own Tim Berners-Lee. We must maintain our national pride. It’s not about blame, blame is just one factor, it’s about power. When we see more equality, when we allow for more diversity we will see a difference!
What’s been your greatest achievement personally?
Being elected by the people of Walthamstow will always be a great achievement. I have had a phenomenal career so far.
If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
I would still be a youth worker which is what I was doing before I entered politics, I loved working with young people.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
A lady called Florrie Bedwell! I met her when I first started campaigning and had no idea that she was recently widowed, yet she helped me along my campaign trail. She has lived in Walthamstow for almost 50 years and has seen it change throughout the years and is one of the best ambassadors for Walthamstow. She never ceases to amaze me.
Don’t get me wrong I love men, we need men to be part of such projects, this is not just a female movement it affects everybody.
What does the future hold for you?
A year of campaigning.
I will be standing for re-election in 2015 and with the support of the people hopefully I will win.
Ronke Lawal is a passionate business woman running RSL Management Services and the Simone Williams fashion label. Apart from her active and involved business interests, her varied passions outside the business world include food, travel, music, literature and most importantly living a life she loves.
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