From Hong Kong shanty town to Liberal Democrat PPC

September 30, 2019 10:31 AM
By Dr George Lee, PPC for Westminster North and member of Chinese Liberal Democrats. in LibDem Voice

Dr George Lee PPC Westminster NorthI was pleased to be adopted recently as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Westminster North. My journey to this point has been a long one. Through a career in business, the police, another party and all the way from Hong Kong, I have been emboldened to join the fight to demand better for our communities and country than this Tory-Labour mess.

I was born in a Hong Kong shanty-town pig shed. Aged 5 I worked in a toy factory before coming to the UK at 10, unable to speak English. Living and working in my parents' takeaway shop in a deprived part of Portsmouth in the 1970s, I was subjected to open hostilities and racial abuse. However, driven by my desire to integrate and serve this country, and guided by a teacher who supported me in my education, I was able to rise to become the first Chinese Ministry of Defence civil servant, the first Chinese police officer, and now the first Hong Kong Chinese PPC.

During my nearly two decades in the police, I worked in Vice, Drugs, Organised Crime, Murder and riot squads. Despite these serious issues, I remained keenly aware of the police's role as a service and not a force. I worked to transform the culture and promote community race relations and equal opportunities for all irrespective of race, religion, class, gender or sexual orientation. I did this by helping to found the Black Police Association; I lobbied for LGBT+ police officers' rights against hostile resistance; and pioneered multi-agency problem-oriented policing and restorative justice.

While I received commendations for my service, and was honoured to be placed on the Chief Constable track while working to address international organised crime, I never lost sense of the importance of our work to protect communities and people. An effective, considerate police service can allow people to live their lives without fear of harm and safeguard the free, fair and open society we liberals value.

After a career of public service, I moved to the private sector, taking up roles including as the Senior Vice President T-Mobile. I also worked to launch Egg - the first internet bank; and VodafoneLive! - the first multi-media smart device which has transformed the way we communicate on the move and how we live our lives today. I saw the innovation, ambition and drive to change peoples' lives for the better in the business world and how much it can achieve when directed properly. I wanted to continue to make people's lives better through politics.

I had always been a swing voter and not been involved in politics until I was approached by the Conservative Party in 2009. Attracted by David Cameron's promise of transforming the Tories into a more modern compassionate party I agreed to stand as Conservative PPC for Holborn and St Pancras in the 2010 general election. However, since 2015 and a majority Conservative government we have seen massive cuts to crucial services like policing, youth services and local council support. Communities in central London that I spent years working to protect and serve are now suffering rising violent crime, alongside poverty and homelessness that should be guarded against by a caring society.

Disgusted by the return of the hard right of the Tory party, its cuts and hard Brexit policy, I resigned and joined the Liberal Democrats.

I can no longer stand by and see this country being dragged down the road of ignorance and intolerance and the long-held British values of fairness equality, and compassion trampled on by an unscrupulous Prime Minister and a right wing Conservative Party. Meanwhile, Labour has failed to provide moral leadership, or speak up for the communities in London that voted to remain, value tolerance and support business and ambition. The next general election will be much more than Brexit: we are fighting for the soul of this great country - a country that now only the Liberal Democrats can stand up for.

My journey to join our movement has been a long one, but I am ready to demand better for Westminster North - a community I served -whenever a general election takes place, and create a greener, more outward-looking, and progressive country.