Former councillor in bid to become Conservative MP for Brent Central
- Credit: Archant
It is a love affair with Wembley which began at the age of five, says Dr Alan Mendoza, when he moved from Kingston, in Surrey, to the borough where he now hopes to stand as a Conservative MP for the Brent Central seat.
Since 2010 he has been living in St John’s Wood where he moved to after he got married and also lost his seat as a councillor in the Preston ward.
He said: “I was living with my parents at the time and my wife couldn’t really move in there, it wouldn’t have been appropriate. If I had won the seat we would have stayed in the borough but I didn’t and so my wife did have a say where we went.”
Curiously, his loss then could be his gain now, for he says he lost the seat due to a “Labour surge’ due to “demographic shifts”.
He explains: “Some of what we’ve seen of people moving within London has also changed the voting practices of areas. In my old ward, a lot of people who had lived there for 40 years had passed on or moved away. New people were coming in, from Labour supporting areas, from what I could tell from our canvassing.
“That’s not to say we couldn’t have done a better job of converting them, that’s a failure on our part not to do that.
“With this election, you’re going to start to see areas south of the borough that Labour used to think was its heartland, will move away.”
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He cites areas like Queens Park, Brondesbury, Kensal Green, as the “up and coming parts” with property prices now exceeding £2million.
“Our kinds of people are aspirational people,” he says. “We’re saying you’re the best arbiter of your aspirations, not the state and we’d like you to be more in control of your money and your life.”
After moving to the borough as a child, Dr Mendoza had a short spell at Wembley Manor School befoe he attended North West London Jewish Day School in Willesden.
He won a scholarship to the City of London School, which he says his parents “would never have been able to afford”.
Politics held an interest for this 36-year-old from a very early age.
“At primary school I would try and understand what was going on in the country, what was around in the country, how it was governed, took an interest in the economy,” he says.
“I would just like to watch the news, I liked reading newspapers in the way it conveyed things. The way the world worked was always fascinating to look at. I would try and understand what was around which led me to form basic political philosophy in my early teens which leaned more towards the Conservative side.”
He won a place at Cambridge University where he stayed for seven years, completing a degree, a master’s degree and then a PHD focusing on Anglo-American relations during the Bosnian War from 1992-1995.
He joined the Conservative Association while in Cambridge, standing unsuccessfully as a councillor. “I felt I could contribute, I felt I could something for people. I felt I had a good understanding of how the system worked, which was naivety on my part, I had no clue how it worked but thought I did. When I came back to Brent, after university, I felt I can make a difference here.”
He stood for Preston ward on the council for five years.
“I enjoyed my time on the council; I enjoyed meeting residents, whether organised through associations, through religious groups. Getting a sense of council services. I’m drawn to problem solving, like people needing bins, pot holes in the road, to major things like a child not getting an education or another with special needs not being addressed. A whole raft of issues I hope I made a difference with. I’ve missed it the last few years as well,” he said.
“I want to come back and try again, make a difference. I work with MPs, I know the demands of the job. It’s not easy and you’ve got to be there for people. Your job is to represent your constituency.
“In today’s much more localised world, the idea that an MP for an area could ignore a vast swathe of their constituents is outdated, difficult. You’re there to represent people and get things done for them.”
Last week he spent a morning at Willesden Job Centreplus in Neasden Lane, Neasden, the front line of the Conservative’s welfare reforms.
“I think it’s very important there’s a human and light touch element to this,” he says as the subject of sanctioning claimants who are late or miss appointments are raised.
“The loss of income for the person is immediate.
“The system is the system, you can’t pre-empt Mr X going to hospital. Fairness is a watch word with this system. We can’t have a welfare system that’s perceived to be unfair. Unfair that if you have a legitimate reason you’re sanctioned and if you’re a lazy good for nothing getting money, that’s also unfair. There should be no stigma to taking benefits in our society as long as you are looking to get off them.”
He adds: “I’m keen on the quality of opportunity. It’s a tragedy if people are told you can’t do things or aren’t provided the ability to at least stretch their aspirations and get out there. Not outcome, we can’t have quality of outcome, it’s not possible, but we’ve got to give everybody the same chance in life.”
It involves education, access to health care, the ability to form businesses, he says.
For the last five years, Dr Mendoza has been campaigning for the Conservative Party but also keeping a hand in his business, neoconservative Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a foreign policy based think tank he co founded with others when he was 24 and still at Cambridge where he is executive director.
HJS is pro intervention and believes the only way to destroy Isis is militarily. Is that something that can stem the growing radicalisation of Brent’s young, most recently three boys from Brent trying to get into Syria?
He said: “It looks glamorous for them to go. There has to be better messaging within the Muslim community about what Islam really is and it’s not about the Islam you’re seeing being practiced by Isis, but the interpretation we see here, a peaceful religion in harmony with its surrounding. But that requires proper teaching, from parents, from others as well, as to what the tenets of the religion are.”
Date of Birth: August 2 1978
Family: Wife Claudia, daughter Madison, 16 months
Education: Wembley Manor, North West London Jewish Day School, City of London School, Cambridge University
Jobs: Publishing director of Publications UK, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society.