Seena Shah, who has just been selected as Conservative candidate for Brentford & Isleworth, voted Leave in 2016 and believes ‘we need to get Brexit done by 31 October’. When I asked her whether that meant without a deal if none had been agreed by 31st October, she said ‘yes’.
Seena, from Chelmsford, is currently at the Conservative Party Conference, where on Sunday she chaired a meeting of Conservative Young Women, of which she is the President. I asked her what did the young women at the meeting care most about? “They were passionate about being empowered to get involved in decision making” she said.
So how does she feel about the language being used in parliament – words such as the ‘surrender’ bill, ‘collaboration’ and ‘betrayal’, which women Labour MPs say actively fuel threats against them – the very opposite of ’empowering’.
“I think the language in politics over the last three and a half years has been really disappointing. But when Boris Johnson uses the word ‘surrender’ he is expressing his opinion.
“I don’t think his calling it a ‘surrender bill’ has forced people to behave in that way. What has forced them to behave in that way is parliament not respecting Brexit. They’ve been told their voice does not matter. That’s what’s pushed these people to that point, their frustration that we’ve not acted on what they voted for.
“Hate has been pedalled on both sides of the benches. It’s not just the ‘surrender bill’ rhetoric”.
She says she personally has been on the receiving end of hatred but says “I’ve had more hate from the left than I have from the far right”.
No third runway
Seena describes herself as a passionate environmentalist, telling me that at the age of 14 she campaigned for a wild flower meadow near where she lives in Essex. She is against a third runway at Heathrow, telling me “If we build a third runway, a whole generation of voters will never forgive us”. What she wants to see, she says is “a proper environmental impact assessment and proper consideration of alternative travel methods to flying” but she says she is open to persuasion on the development of new technology to make flying cleaner.
“I mis-spoke about emissions”
Seena told W4 news website “I’m quite a big environmentalist so I am very acutely aware of the air quality in the area particularly the C02 emissions and I have huge concerns about voting for something that will make life even worse”. Her statement was jumped on gleefully by prospective Green Party Candidate for Brentford & Isleworth, Victoria George.
“The Green Party is always pleased when other parties include green issues on their agenda, and so I was genuinely heartened to see that Seena Shah has reservations about the 3rd runway at Heathrow and states she is a ‘big environmentalist’. But a full grasp of the issues is important if she is to evaluate policy options correctly. Seena worries about air quality, ‘particularly the CO2 emissions.’ But the emissions that affect local air quality are NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) and PM10 and 2.5 (Particulate Matter), not CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). The 3rd runway would increase air pollution as a result of NO2 and PMs from the inevitable increase in road traffic to and from Heathrow. Seena wants the air ‘cleaned up’ by offsetting. There is no evidence for effective local offsetting on the scale that would be needed to neutralise local air pollution from this volume of traffic”.
When I asked her about this she fessed up straight. “I may have misspoken on that. This takes me back to chemistry at school but I do know the difference between CO2 and NO2”.
It appears the next general election campaign has already started in Brentford & Isleworth. And before anyone can criticise her for living outside the borough, she assured me she would be moving to Hounslow (where she has family) next week “just as soon as the Conservative Party conference is over”.
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See also: I wouldn’t marry Boris – says Conservative candidate