Fernandes had to beat off a family challenge to be selected
as the Tory candidate for the Brent East by-election,
such is the appetite for Conservative politics in her
55-year-old councillor and community nurse was keen
to fight the seat but first had to persuade her daughter,
a Cambridge and Sorbonne-educated lawyer, not to put
her name forward. "You should let Mummy have
a chance," she told her.
So Suella Fernandes, 23, who is also on the Central
Office candidates list, agreed to let her mother go
first. Instead she will team up with her father to distribute
leaflets and promote her mother's interests with north-west
one, not even Mrs Fernandes, expects the Tories to
win the seat, which fell vacant last month with the
death of Paul Daisley. He won Brent East - the seat
once held by Ken Livingstone, the London mayor - in
2001 with a majority of more than 13,000.
not kid ourselves," she said. "Brent East
is a strong Labour seat. But the mood is changing
and people are tired of this Government. Labour is
split through the middle and it's all lies, lies,
lies and damn lies."
selection is being seized on by Conservative Central
Office as another small step in the drive to show
the party is not just a home for ambitious white men.
have been accused of not doing enough to attract more
non-white candidates. When minority candidates are
selected, critics say, it is usually for an unwinnable
seat such as Brent East.
Fernandes, who was born on the island of Mauritius
in the Indian Ocean, trained as a nurse in Aberdeen
before moving to London. She is a community nursing
sister and has worked at Great Ormond Street children's
hospital in central London. She rejected the suggestion
that she should be helped because of her colour.
true that it's only in the last few years that people
from ethnic minorities have come forward in this party,"
she said. "But why should I be given a safe seat
just because I'm Asian?
firmly believe people should advance on merit. People
should work their way up. If I do well and if I survive
the campaign, I might get to fight a better seat next
time." She was a "hardened campaigner"
who had fought the Liberal Democrats on the doorstep
in local elections.
the 21st century, voters "vote for what you are
rather than party or policies".
Fernandes added: "I'm a natural-born Conservative.
I can't stress enough that being a nurse for nearly
30 years has left me with the strong belief that everybody
should be treated equally."
general election: Lab 18,325 (63.2 per cent); Con
5,278 (18.2 per cent); LD 3,065 (10.6 per cent); Green
1,361 (4.7 per cent); ProLife 392 (1.4 per cent);
SLP 383 (1.3 per cent); UKIP 188 (0.6 per cent). Turnout:
49.9 per cent.