"Since I’ve been selected as the Conservative candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent, I’ve been asked my views on all sorts of things, but the most frequent questions have been people just wanting to know more about me – more about where I come from and my career outside politics. Very few people want to know about anything political I’ve done, I notice! These questions make complete sense, as no doubt my views and the way I’ll approach things if I’m elected, as well as the skills I bring, are largely the result of what I’ve learnt and what I’ve experienced in my life so far. Here, I have answered the questions I am asked most often."
Q & A WITH HELEN
What led to your interest in politics?
My parents were both doctors, but I decided not to follow in their footsteps. Instead of becoming a doctor I wanted to make the whole NHS better, and that aspiration explains a lot of the decisions I’ve made ever since.
I’ve been interested in politics since my teens, because of the influence of politics on the NHS, but also because at that time – when the Soviet Union and much of Europe was still behind the Iron Curtain – political systems struck me as fundamental to quality of life. That interest led me to study Politics and Philosophy at university, before embarking on a career which I hoped would give me the skills to improve the NHS or become a good Member of Parliament, or both.
Why are you standing for Parliament?
Many people ask me this question, and I’m not surprized because being an MP is hugely demanding and at the same time, MPs get so much bad press.
Time and again in day to day life and in my healthcare work, I have been reminded that decisions about so many things that affect our lives are made by politicians. I want to make sure we make good decisions, and I hope the experience I bring will mean I can help.
To me, being an MP is about helping people, standing up for the things that matter, and making a difference. It’s a chance to make sure we make the right decisions as a country, a chance to help communities and individuals, and a chance to help people live the life they want to live.
How do your family feel about you standing for Parliament?
I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive family. My husband runs an energy business, Estover, based in England and Scotland. One of their sites is in Kent, near Sandwich. We have three children, a boy and two girls. My son, who’s the eldest, asks lots of questions about the campaign and likes to know what’s going on. He keeps asking me when we’re going to start putting up the posters. They all love our house in the constituency and are particularly enjoying getting to know the local pubs as trips to the pub usually involve crisps.
You’ve said you work in healthcare, but what do you actually do?
I’ve been working in healthcare for the last 8 years, as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. Over that time I’ve worked mainly with hospitals, but also with healthcare commissioners and regulators. My focus has been improving quality of care, particularly in hospitals, but also community services and mental healthcare. I have led several ‘hospital transformation’ programmes, where I’ve worked with staff from the CEO to frontline doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants. Some of these projects have been about the whole hospital, others have been specific services like maternity or surgery. They have all aimed to dramatically improve patient care – both in clinical outcomes terms and patient experience. I have also worked on transparency in healthcare, helping to launch two ground breaking online services giving patients and families information about the quality of local healthcare services. This is something I’d like to take further as an MP, as I think everyone should be able to find out how well their local healthcare services are doing and where there’s choice, be able to make truly informed choices.
What about your business experience?
I started my career (not counting various student temping jobs) at PricewaterhouseCoopers, as a management accountancy trainee. I worked in the Telecoms & Media division, working on projects with big telecommunications companies around Europe. After a couple of years I moved on to AOL Time Warner, firstly negotiating deals and partnerships, and then as the manager of a new business unit set up to sell ‘On Demand’ products like music, films and games. As my husband runs his own business, I also see fairly close-up the challenges of being an entrepreneur.