Is Westminster ready for a would-be headmistress?
Three generations of Caroline’s family join the campaign. Husband Nick is third from left, behind Caroline
Caroline Ansell could have been a headteacher. Instead, she hopes to take her classroom skills to the House of Commons. In the third profile of a Christian standing for political office, Caroline Ansell, the Conservatives’ candidate for Eastbourne, answers questions fielded by HEART OF SUSSEX
Who is the current MP?
Stephen Lloyd (Lib Dem) elected in 2010.
I’m 43. Born in 1971, youngest of four daughters.
Teacher and qualified for school headship.
I read French at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Lived and studied business in France at the Ecole Superieure de Commerce. 2001: Masters degree in Education.
Nick and I married in 1997 and we now have three sons of 9, 11, 12, and four generations of my family live
in Eastbourne. Nick teaches PE at the local prep school.
What is your previous political experience?
Although I had long felt a calling to politics, I had never understood how that would be achieved. My life was incredibly full and my direction of travel was school headship. I had always voted but wasn’t a party member or involved in politics or local campaigns until 2008, when a dramatic turn of events changed the course of my career.
The shock diagnosis of a life-threatening brain tumour saw my then five-year old son, admitted to Kings College Hospital, London. Such times are defining. Amid the turmoil and the heartache, the only question we didn’t have to ask was, how much will it cost and how will we ever afford it?
In a lifetime of contributions Nick and I will never pay back what the NHS has given us. It’s part of my political DNA now, a debt of gratitude to our country. In this time, I took a sabbatical from school to support my son. He made an incredible recovery and I slowly began my journey into political life.
If you were to look back at my last five years, too often you would see only one set of footprints in the sand. I have known incredible grace. The opportunity to work with the then MP came my way and in May 2012, I won a local by-election and currently serve on Eastbourne Borough Council. Both experiences, have been excellent preparation.
My work has seen me on the downland farms, inspecting new technology at the crematorium and climbing council buildings to see solar panel performance. Provisions for victims of domesticviolence and projects around loneliness have also been important concerns. I have served as Deputy Leader of the Opposition and now chair the Scrutiny Committee, a role which has much in common with my experience as a Schools Inspector.
How does being a Christian make a difference to your politics?
There are people of faith in each of the political parties and I think that is a very good and right thing. In terms of making a difference, being a Conservative in 2014 means working with the largest party in local government and the lead party in national government.
And for me, Conservative best relates to my faith: “Love thy neighbour,” is the original Big Society.
How have you dealt with complaints from traditional Tory voters about David Cameron’s U-turn on same sex marriage?
It’s true to say that before this parliament, “considering the case for same sex marriage” was as far as the stated Conservative position went.
What I do appreciate, was that Conservative MPs were given a free vote on the issue and of the 155 MPs in Parliament who voted against the Bill, 128 were Conservative. Throughout, Conservative MPs spoke on the need for protections for the Church and for people of faith in their working lives. Ultimately, I can only make my own position clear; had I been an MP then, I would have supported traditional marriage.
I have been pleased to see the Prime Minister talk of his own faith and of the Christian standing of our country.
How does the rest of your family and Christian community feel about your standing for Parliament?
My family are hugely supportive and in fact, step out on the campaign trail with me and shared the trials and the successes. My children tell me they’re proud of me. They keep me grounded too.
“I’m going to see the Prime Minister today” I told my eldest.
“Great,” he replied … ‘what’s for tea?”
What is for sure is that this is a vocation I could not fulfil without the 100 per cent support of my husband. We campaign side by side step and we’re both encouraged by the wider church family. I sense an awakening interest in government within the Church, and with recurring pressure for change on end of life care, on genetic treatment around embryology, there is much to debate. But broader issues are our concern too – how we provide for the most vulnerable in society, how we face the threat from terrorism.
William Wilberforce MP, the man who campaigned tirelessly in his day to bring down the slave trade is my political hero. Just last year, a gang, operating out of Eastbourne, was arrested under charge of sex trafficking women from Eastern Europe. The cry for social justice goes on.
Are you working or campaigning full-time?
For this important year, I am full-time on the campaign. Next year it will be up to Westminster or “Back to school”! Parliamentary candidacy can be a very demanding role. The day can start with a business breakfast and wrap up with an evening speaking engagement. Betwixt and between, there are events, meetings and canvassing; calls and emails are pretty much round the clock. Casework is important too and I am supporting constituents in wide-ranging concerns such as child protection, pension disputes and
How do you see your campaign going between now and 2015’s General Election?
The focus on important campaigns will continue, campaigns which add to local prosperity and opportunity like the A27 upgrade and Save the DGH which campaigns to keep core services at our local hospital.
Because the result in Eastbourne and Willingdon has been close these last three general elections, campaigning can run red hot. In the 2010 election, there was an arrest for harassment, trashed party posters boards all over the town, and literature which landed the challenger in court facing libel. I hope and pray for a better contest but I’ve reluctantly come to terms with this side of political life.
Ultimately, the challenge for me in the incoming months is not to allow my hope levels to rise and fall with the polls but have my eyes “fixed upon the prize”.
The Lord’s Prayer is carved in stone around the Houses of Parliament, Scripture is laid in the mosaic floor of Central Lobby. There is a rich past of Christian service in government and I hope, for me, a bright future. But, win lose or draw, to “run the race” is the campaign plan for 2015 and for life thereafter.