Society

The Political Cheat Sheet: Fleur Anderson

Each month, The Stack hands the mic to women Members of Parliament. They get 20 minutes to tell us how they did it and what they stand for

By Edwina Langley

11 May 2021

Name: Fleur Anderson

Party: Labour

Constituency: Putney, Roehampton & Southfields (since 2019)

W

hile Fleur studied politics at the University of York, she did not originally intend to become an MP. Growing up, her interests lay in current affairs and at school and she even considered a career as a newsreader.

While after university she joined the Labour Party and went on to be “a more active or a less active member” of it at different times, she still maintains: “I didn’t imagine at all that I would become an MP.”

In the years that followed, she worked in international development, taking on roles at organisations including Christian Aid (based in Bosnia), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) and WaterAid, and also worked for a time in Kenya as a consultant.

An ardent campaigner, she fought for international causes, and highlights the Jubilee Debt Campaign, which calls to cancel the debt of developing countries around the world, as an example.

But it was arguably her local campaigning – her work to save her community’s ‘One O’Clock Club’ being one example – that ultimately paved the way for her parliamentary career. Through it, she was spotted as someone actively involved in the neighbourhood and was asked to stand as local councillor for Wandsworth. Her response? “I’ve got children I haven’t got time to do this!”

She was told it wasn’t a time-consuming role – “a few hours here and there”. “That was not true,” Fleur quips.

She was elected to the council in 2014 and, in 2019, stood as the Labour candidate for Putney, Roehampton & Southfields, selected from an all-women shortlist.

Hers was the only seat gained by Labour in that election.

"When I was working for development agencies having campaigns, I was trying to influence MPs. And now I’m on the other side – I’m the one receiving those emails and reports."

Fleur Anderson during a gap in a constituency surgery held via Zoom
Image by Freddie Evans

How she voted

Fleur has voted in favour of climate change prevention measures and against a more rigid asylum system. “Proudly Remain”, she campaigned for a second referendum on Brexit and. most recently, started a petition calling for all teachers and school staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

What’s she working on

Fleur has been involved in a number of local campaigns, including calls for Hammersmith Bridge to be reopened and supporting constituents affected by the Cladding Scandal.

“When I was working for development agencies having campaigns, I was trying to influence MPs. And now I’m on the other side,” she says. “I’m the one receiving those emails, and I’m the one receiving those reports.”

“I listen out so keenly to local residents about their issues,” she continues. “I really want to be the MP that does take it up, that spots a campaign, that spots where we can make change.”

One of the areas in which Fleur has recently made a difference has been through her work ensuring Roehampton gets its vaccine centre.

“I just went on every single call I could with the Vaccine Minister, and [went] everywhere I could raising that issue,” she says. “And now we have got the vaccine centre in Roehampton. So there are things that I can do to stand up for local people and make those changes.”

Advice for aspiring women MPs

Fight to keep all-women’s shortlists. “I was on [one] and I was very, very grateful for that,” she says. “It doesn’t, in any way, lessen our candidature at all, but it gives us the space to be able to stand in a place, which is so often male-dominated.”

Becoming a local councillor is another good step she says, as is, campaigning in a “woman-friendly way”.

“You don’t have to go out canvassing every single night – you often can’t do that if you’ve got caring responsibilities,” she points out.

That said, she confirms the local government route is absolutely not a prerequisite, and nor is working as, for instance, a lawyer. Simply campaigning in your community can be sufficient.

Anything else?

As someone who has spent most of her life campaigning, it stands to reason Fleur would have some good tips on strategy. Key to the process is finding out who the decision maker is – “how they’re going to be influenced – what matters for them?” she asks.

“You can campaign, and make massive amounts of noise, and do whatever you like in a really big way. But if that’s not influencing the person who actually has the money [or] can make the call, then that’s… a bit of a waste of effort,” she says.

Timing is also crucial – knowing exactly when decisions are going to be made.

“I think that’s really important for when you write to an MP,” she says. “There are some times when we’re about to have a debate on an issue… [and] there are times in which we can raise issues.

“Being a bit smarter about knowing what’s going on in parliament, and writing to me at just the right time, you’re going to be spot on: Great! I wanted to hear about that at this time. And [that’s] very influential.”

Bet you didn’t know…

As a Fairtrade campaigner, Fleur was once responsible for going into supermarkets and urging managers to stock Fairtrade tea and coffee.

“We had some absolutely disgusting coffee called ‘campaign coffee’, that we used to drink in solidarity,” she remembers. “But now we can drink really nice coffee, and get it, and be fair to workers around the world,” she adds.

The Short Stack

Fleur Anderson says the key to raising issues and influencing decision makers in parliament is to be smart about what’s going on there and to write to your MP at the right time.

By Edwina Langley

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