Kirsty Finlayson is a trainee solicitor in the City of London and has lived in East London since 2015. She was inspired to stand for parliament when she worked for Anne Milton (former MP until parliament was dissolved).
“Nine years ago, I was on a sixth form trip to the Houses of Parliament and we were attending a “female leaders” event. I summoned up the courage to go up to Anne afterwards and ask her for a week’s work experience. She said yes and following that she asked me back to complete a summer internship as parliamentary assistant. I saw first-hand how much responsibility an MP has, but also at the same time what a privilege it is to help people, often when they have exhausted all other avenues, such as local organisations, charities and councillors. I was also inspired by her influence on policy as then Shadow Health Minister and how she put her direct experience of the NHS (being a former nurse) to use to influence change.”
Kirsty has degrees in Politics and Law and is currently Deputy Chairman of Vincent Square Conservatives and Bethnal Green & Bow Conservatives. Her interests outside of local politics are justice, mental health and the environment.
My week: Monday 29 May - Sunday 4 June
I spent 7 days out of 7 campaigning this week.
I am now on 2 weeks of annual leave to focus on my campaign. It is good to have an understanding boss and to have been able to take holiday at short notice. It also allows me to speak to more residents who are busy in the evenings and at weekends.
My father was in the UK this week visiting me from Kenya and so I introduced him to canvassing - he had never done any campaigning before. He enjoyed learning about the "behind the scenes" part of grassroots activism, although I think he preferred running the board than talking to people at the door! My dog adventure of the week was when I ran away down a drive from a running, barking dog and the lady ran out after the dog trying to catch him, but locking herself out of the door in the process! A fellow volunteer managed to remedy the situation and get a neighbour to let her back into the house via his garden, so hopefully it didn't lose us any votes!
On Wednesday Boris attended one of our canvassing sessions in Dagenham and Rainham. The high street was completely transformed - people were running up asking for selfies, shaking his hand and Boris even had a request for a photograph holding a baby. My highlight was when he went into a local barber shop. He put a smile on everyone's faces; whenever I see Boris I always admire how he resonates with people who aren't normally interested in politics. I think that is so important and something I hope to achieve with younger voters in particular.
On Thursday I attended my first ever Facebook Live hustings with East Ham's local newspaper the Newham Recorder. I met the Labour and Green candidates and we had a great discussion about the issue of fly tipping in East Ham which is something that really concerns me. One of my key pledges in my #planforeastham is to tackle anti-social behaviour, including litter and fly tipping. I want to put pressure on the Labour council to enforce fines prior to legal action; one recent case in Newham which ended up in court resulted in a fine which equated to an eighth of the costs the council had spent removing the fly tipping. The Green candidate and I were able to agree on a number of proposals, most importantly enforcing fines at an earlier point in the process to save on legal fees later down the line.
I then went to my first ever live radio interview at Ramadan FM which was such a great experience. I was debating toe-to-toe with Stephen Timms, the Labour candidate who has been the MP for over twenty years and the discussion lasted almost an hour. Although I knew how much experience Stephen had on live radio, I ended up really enjoying the debate and I have been invited to attend further shows with the presenter in the future.
On Friday, I visited a local Londis store with the Association of Convenience Stores and spoke at length with the owners Mr and Mrs Patel. They were concerned with some parties' plans to have a bottle collection at local shops which would have a big impact on their store, which has very little storage. It was really fascinating to listen to how economic policy can have very specific unexpected (and unintended) effects on small businesses. The summer sunshine took a break during thunder and lightning storms and we spent the rest of the day planning the "plan to vote" map routes. It's not all media appearances or pounding the streets - sometimes it is about colouring in maps and bundling leaflets! I enjoyed the break from walking and used the opportunity to chat to other Conservative activists.
I spend my evenings updating my followers on social media and answering emails from constituents. There are nationwide campaigns which I respond to, as well as specific questions on local East Ham issues. I really enjoy responding to residents on Conservative manifesto proposals and my views on local issues; it's so important to outline my opinion on all matters of concern and give people the opportunity to organise a telephone call or visit to their home or local business.
The weekend was spent asking voters on their plan to vote in Dagenham & Rainham and speaking to residents in East Ham, avoiding sunburn! I'm really looking forward to the last week of campaigning and getting out the vote in East London.
My week: Monday 15 - Sunday 21 May
I spent 7 days out of 7 campaigning this week.
On Monday, I went to Conservative Campaign Headquarters, which brought back memories of working there over the 2010 election when I was still at university. It is a great way of contacting voters in the marginal seats in a very efficient way. I also managed to speak to Philip May who was “tele-canvassing” at the same time as me. When I told him I was standing in East Ham, he told me a little about Theresa May’s experience standing as a Conservative candidate in east London, during her by-election campaign in Barking in 1994.
On Tuesday, I did a street campaign in East Ham, talking to morning commuters. We also went canvassing with campaigners from all over London in Beckton with lots of support from the Conservative Muslim Forum. Last week I wrote about being scared by dogs at the doorstep; well I can go one step further this week and tell you that I was bitten by a dog on the bum! I had knocked on the door of a house and heard a high pitch yapping which indicated to me that the dog was not terribly large. As the owner of the house (and dog) opened the door, a Chihuahua just went for me, running through my legs and leaping at me and biting me on the bum. Definitely a Labour voter.
On Wednesday, I met Iain Duncan Smith in Newham with my fellow candidate for West Ham, Patrick Spencer. We visited residential areas and discussed Conservative policies which will have a positive impact in Newham itself. As the founder of the Centre of Social Justice, IDS has detailed knowledge on social policy and so it was wonderful to meet him and discuss the impact of government policy on somewhere like Newham. In the afternoon, I was asked to appear on Sky News the next day, which was a first for me and (I admit) rather terrifying.
On Thursday morning, I got up bright and early to do some canvassing in East Ham with fellow campaigners, whilst Sky News filmed us. It was a surreal experience and I am hoping it will get easier the more often it happens! I did not expect to be interviewed whilst walking down the street (something I had not prepared for the night before!) and it is remarkable how difficult it is to walk, look at the interviewer, talk and breathe, all at the same time! Hopefully it will come across as easier on television than it seemed at the time!
At the weekend, I attended two action days for Julie Marson, the candidate for Dagenham & Rainham, as I am supporting other female candidates on the campaign trail. It wasn’t all work though, as I enjoyed a drink after canvassing on Saturday evening and we had a pub lunch on Sunday.
My week: Monday 8 - Sunday 14 May
I spent 6 days out of 7 campaigning this week. It has been just over a week since I found out I was the candidate for East Ham and so it has been amazing to watch how organised both the national and local campaign teams are and how ready volunteers are to spring into action.
I have a full-time job in the City, so I spent four weekday evenings canvassing. Canvassing involves knocking on doors, asking residents if they are going to be voting in the General Election, who they might be voting for and having a conversation about any local issues that concern them. I always make sure that I raise any local problem with the area’s Chairman and Campaign Manager. This week, I canvassed on a road where it seemed every other door had a rather dangerous dog behind it! I am an animal-lover but I am more comfortable with cats (hopefully my preference won’t lose me any votes!); they are less likely to bite my fingers off! I spoke to a lady who was very concerned about anti-social behaviour in East Ham and told her about my #planforeastham to keep young men off the streets.
I attended a careers event this week as part of my day-job, discussing legal training with pupils at a London college. Ongoing training is something I am passionate about, both as someone undergoing training myself and also as a mentor to three law students. Robert Halfon, Minister for Skills & Apprenticeships, was leading the event and so I was able to talk to him about my plans for East Ham; it was a great opportunity to discuss with him how to make apprenticeships more appealing to local businesses with limited resources, which is one of my priorities for my seat in Newham.
At the weekend, I did lots of canvassing on Saturday and Sunday, interspersed with a compulsory pub lunch half-way through! On Sunday afternoon, I had my election launch at East Ham Conservative Social Club which my Chairman Attic kindly organised. It was good to meet more local association members at the event and my election agent John was taking lots of photographs; I wore my “Theresa May” heels for the occasion. We then met with local businesses and residents, discussing issues of concern. I ended the week by attending my neighbouring candidate Patrick Spencer’s election launch in West Ham; it’s good to support each other as we are both first-time candidates.
Now that my election address and leaflets have been sent off to the printers and my election launch is over, I’m going to be focussing my time on talking with as many residents as possible. My favourite part of campaigning is talking to people and explaining the Conservative agenda on the doorstep. You have to be prepared to engage with people, even when they become highly emotional explaining their personal difficulties. In law and in my voluntary work at a mental health charity, I have had some experience in this area, but topics on the doorstep can often take you by surprise!