I was born in Lewisham Hospital and grew up in Lewisham, my mother was from Sierra Leone and my father’s family from Wiltshire.
My mother worked as a midwife at the hospital where I was born and my father worked to build up a successful local business. I followed family tradition and joined the army but that ambition was cut short by injury, so I went back into education and got a business degree and joined the Territorial Army. I embarked on a career in magazine and digital publishing working on a number of market leading titles.
I have always voted Conservative and I campaigned during the 2001 General Election and first stood for election in the 2002 local government elections. Later that year I spoke at the Conservative Party conference about what we needed to do in order to win support from Britain’s black communities.
I was called up by the TA in support the Iraq war in 2004. Because of my media and business communications background I worked to support both mobilised TA soldiers and their employers to make sure they were able to get their regular jobs back when they came home. I spent a year negotiating with reservist’s employers to secure their future and I’m proud to say that every soldier who wanted to return to their old job did.
After being demobilised I stood as the parliamentary candidate in Lewisham East and returned to the publishing industry after the 2005 general election. In 2006 I once again followed family tradition and started a business with a website providing inspiration, advice and guidance for other small businesses.
I was elected to represent Bexley and Bromley on the London Assembly in 2008. My first role at City Hall was as part of the team that helped clean up the discredited London Development Agency that was mired in police investigations and allegations of corruption under the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone. During my time as a board member, the finances for the Olympic legacy were secured, and the waste of the Livingstone years was stopped.
After only a year on the Assembly, Boris Johnson asked me to become his youth ambassador. I believe that young first time offenders still had the chance to lead a better life, provided they didn’t get sucked back into crime when they left prison. So, negotiating with government and other GLA bodies, I helped create a separate wing at Feltham young offender’s institute, so that first time offenders couldn’t mix with hardened criminals, and were given a second chance to get an education and a job when they left. The project dramatically reduced re-offending rates and elements of the idea are being used across the UK prison system.
During this time, I also served on the Metropolitan Police Authority, holding senior officers to account, including investigations into credit card misuse. I was also part of the Counter Terrorism Committee, helping scrutinise London’s preparations for the Olympics.
In 2011, I was appointed to became the Chair of the London Waste and Recycling Board. In this role, I led negotiations with government to secure a £100m programme to make recycling easier and more convenient for Londoners.
The London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA):
After being re-elected to the Assembly in 2012 and my election to parliament in 2015, I was appointed to become Chairman of the Fire Authority.
In this role, I worked with senior fire officers to implement the largest structural reform since the brigade was created, securing its financial future so it remains the best fire and rescue service in the world.
The London Resilience Forum:
I also chair the partnership of emergency services, transport providers, local government, utilities companies and representatives from the voluntary sector who work together to assess what risks London faces, and prepare in case we need to respond to a major emergency as a result. You can find out more about our vision and strategy here: http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor-assembly/mayor/london-resilience/preparing-london
For over 20 years I have been an officer in the Territorial Army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
I am the president of the fundraising group for the Ulysses Trust which supports cadets and members of the reserve forces to undertake challenging adventurous and community-related activities.