For the General Election 2017, we invited women standing for election from across the UK to write about their experiences of campaigning. First up, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.
The constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire where I’m standing as SNP Candidate this General Election and where I’ve served as an MP since 2015, covers a beautiful part of central Scotland. From the busy towns of Alloa, Alva and Dollar, through the rolling hills and farmland of the Gleneagles area to Auchterarder, Crieff and Kinross, it’s a constituency with rich variety of people from many different walks of life, each with an equal right to be properly represented in Westminster. So it seemed right and proper to start last week with my first husting of the election, focusing on the importance of equality.
Hustings can be a high-pressure event, but being put on the spot and being able to properly answer questions from an audience is part and parcel of being a politician. These events highlight areas where people have issues that need addressed and give them the chance to have their voice heard. Many people in my constituency are worried about changes to their social security and disability benefits, cuts to tax credits and changes to the state pension age. As an MP and now a candidate, the pursuit of equality is at the central core of everything I believe in and work towards. From standing up against racism, to championing equal pay, to supporting a fair deal for WASPI women, and protecting disabled people from cuts to their social security payments, I’ve pledged to champion woman and minorities at every opportunity to build a more equal and fairer society.
Continuing on the theme of equality, the next morning, my team and I headed off to Perth for the launch of the SNP Manifesto, a manifesto with fairness and equality at its very heart. Even a torrential downpour of rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered to celebrate the launch, as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon delivered a positive speech on prosperity and opportunity.
Freshly recharged by the launch, we headed off to the South Perthshire end of my constituency for some rather soggy canvassing. Over the last few weeks I’ve been out and about across the region, knocking on doors and discussing voters concerns and personal issues. I’m so lucky to have such a dedicated team, who accompany me on these canvassing sessions whatever the weather, helping deliver leaflets, highlighting our campaign promises and talking with local constituents.
On Wednesday, the people of Alloa came together to observe Armed Forces Day, with pipebands from local schools, girl guides and army cadets leading a parade to the Town Hall. Lt Col (retd) Johnny Stewart, Lord-Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, gave a moving speech, as we focused on the huge sacrifice and service of the armed forces to maintain our security and freedom. After the formalities, we gathered together in the town hall, catching up with old friends, freshly elected councilors, and the wonderful team who organise this annual event.
Towards the end of the week, my good friend and fellow politician, Humza Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow Pollock, came through from the West to help with my campaign. Together we met with the residents of Alloa at our SNP street stall, before visiting the local mosque for Friday prayers. It was then on to a very sunny Tillicoutry for more door knocking plus a trip to a well-loved tearoom in the village, although neither of us could partake of any tea and cake as we are fasting for Ramadan. I also managed to take part in the Big Fit Walk starting from Sauchie Hall that morning, joining with walkers from the area who regularly get together to keep fit and socialise as part of the fantastic Paths for All health and fitness initiative.
Friday night finished with an impromptu pizza party in our campaign office for all the team who’ve helped me so much so far in the run up to the election. After everyone had had enough to eat, they were busy and back to work, stuffing envelopes and labeling letters, ready to be delivered during the final week of the election. I couldn’t do any of this without them!