One on One with Keith Vaz : Thelma Walker MP

Friday 22nd March 2019 05:36 EDT

Thelma Walker was elected to Parliament in June 2017, representing the Colne Valley constituency in West Yorkshire. Prior to becoming an MP, she worked as a teacher and head teacher for over 30 years, working in several schools in deprived areas in Kirklees.

In September 2017, Thelma was appointed to the Education Committee, and she has drawn on her experience to ensure that the voices of education professionals and young people are heard through the Committee’s work. In January 2018, She was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP.

1 Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?
I love Colne Valley, my constituency. The moors, the villages, small towns and yet it has easily accessible links to Leeds and Manchester. I love the beauty of the landscape and the dry wit of the locals.

2 What are your proudest achievements?
My two sons, who are both warm, clever, funny individuals with integrity but they're aware of their flaws. I'd like to think I was a good teacher and head teacher during my career in education. Winning the Colne Valley seat in the 2017 General Election is also a highlight.

3 What inspires you?
As an MP, people who face adversity and/or deprivation every day, yet continue to battle on. As a head teacher, I was inspired by a deputy head I worked with. She wouldn't be dictated to by systems and timetables, she always considered children's needs first. She was an amazing role model.

4 What has been biggest obstacle in your career?
In my early career, sexism and inequality in the workplace was definitely an obstacle. In later life, I was a carer for my mother who was disabled. It was very hard balancing career with childcare and caring for my mother. Having a husband who shared the responsibility helped tremendously.

5 Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
Politically, John McDonnell. He is an amazing role model. Intelligence, integrity, great socialist values and a warm heart. He never stops working! John has time for everyone and listens to other viewpoints. It is a privilege to be his PPS, I can't wait to see him in Number 11!
6 What is the best aspect about your current role?
You really can change things! Raising the profile of causes and issues on behalf of my constituents. Being able to work with more experienced politicians is also a privilege. I love my role on the Education Select Committee and it is an honour to be a PPS to John McDonnell.

7 And the worst?
Being away from Colne Valley and living mid-week away from my husband. I really miss my home. The hours are very long and it's impossible to cover all the work that needs doing, even with a great staff team.

8 What are your long term goals?
"• To make society fairer through the election of a Labour Government.
• To be a champion for the disadvantaged.
• To help modernise Parliament and bring it into the 21st century."

9 If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
Increase regional funding and investment, and provide adequate funding for local government across the country. Under this government, inequality has increased which I think is truly shameful. I have many more things I'd want to do through so choosing one is very hard.

10 If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why.
Emmeline Pankhurst, or any of the Pankhurst women. Without the Women's Social and Political Union, and direction with "Deeds not words!" which shook up society, I might not be an MP now, nor any other woman for that matter.

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