Veronica Oakeshott discusses life, Newham and the pursuit of equality
PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 December 2015 | UPDATED: 09:42 14 December 2015
From Newcastle to Westminster to Africa - our latest councillor's journey so far has been a remarkable one.
But what inspires her? Where does she come from? And what does she want for Newham?
Veronica Oakeshott, 36, was born in Edinburgh to English parents and raised in Dunbar, East Lothian.
“I’ve no trace of a Scottish accent, I’m afraid,” the new councillor for Boleyn said. “And I’m a very enthusiastic unionist.”
For university, she travelled a short way down the coast – and over the border – to Newcastle, where she studied politics.
It was there she met husband Mark Monsarrat, with whom she has a daughter, two-year-old Eva.
“Health is something very personal to me,” she said. “My daughter was born in a hospital here, I use the services often – it’s something that touches my life.
“The further west you go on the Tube, the more the life expectancy grows,” she said. “It must change.”
After graduation came internships – and then a chance to put her degree into practice.
“I worked in Westminster [for former Northampton North MP Sally Keeble] and I absolutely loved the experience,” she said.
But soon Veronica was heading off to Africa.
In Kenya, she worked for the British High Commission in Nairobi and the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association.
She also worked for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting during elections in Nigeria, with her aim to promote robust journalism.
She then returned to Britain and settled in Plaistow.
“Democracy is not, and cannot, be the same in every part of the world,” she said. “But one thing I learned is people must be involved at all times – not just elections.”
Equality, she said, is a pillar of her politics – and one of the reasons she joined the Labour Party.
“Everyone should get a fair chance,” she said. “What I want to do is attempt to even out the randomness of birth.”
Among individuals to have inspired her is her late cousin, Cecily Eastwood, who died aged 19 while helping orphans in Zambia.
“I loved her very much,” Veronica said. “What she did has had a profound effect on me.”
Now, having been given the chance to put her values into action, the councillor – who won 72 per cent of the vote in December 3’s by-election – is very excited.
“I’m totally delighted,” she said. “I am really honoured that the people of Boleyn put their trust in me.
“We increased our vote share, too, so I think that is a real vote of confidence in Newham Labour.
“I cannot wait to work towards making Newham the best possible place it can be.”