Charlotte Leslie: Life after Parliament
Published on: 30 Jan 2018
KERI BECKINGHAM caught up with Charlotte Leslie, former MP for Bristol North West, to find out what she’s been up to since losing her seat at the 2017 general election.
What have you been working on since the general election in 2017?
“Since June, it has been a whirlwind. I have moved to London and am Director of the Conservative Middle East Council, an organisation that aims to help MPs and others understand the complex Middle East region.
“My interest in, and passion for The Middle East began back in 2001. I was expecting to embark on a Masters in Classics that September, but having been up the twin towers on my birthday and watched the horrors of 9/11 unfold a month later, live on a Chicago TV, I cancelled my place. An undirected - and perhaps naïve - desire to somehow ‘make a difference’ propelled me first into media then into politics. In the terrible days that followed 9/11, I developed grave fears over America’s likely reaction to this atrocity. Later, my fervent opposition to the 2003 Iraq War drove me from my thwarted attempts to become Kate Adie, into politics. So in many ways I find I have come full-circle.
“As part of my new role I am passionate about helping tackle counter-extremism – both at home and abroad; and understanding why young people choose this destructive life-path, and providing more compelling alternatives.
“I have also been struck by the extraordinary number of exceptional women who are driving (no pun intended, Saudi Arabia!) improvement in the region, from Government Ministers and business women to local community leaders. These women need our recognition and support. It is an honour to be able to work alongside these remarkable women as they work for peace, stability and opportunity in their countries.”
What about the reports that you were due to appear on Celebrity Big Brother this year?
“Celebrating the dawn of 2018 was especially exhilarating and a reminder that you can never tell what is going to happen in life! It was quite a bizarre few weeks leading up to Christmas: from hosting Secretary John Kerry for a foreign policy discussion for the Conservative Middle East Council, to waking up one morning to learn from Page 3 of The Sun that I had apparently agreed to a ‘six figure sum’ to appear on Celebrity Big Brother! Needless to say, I had not agreed to a six figure sum to appear on Celebrity Big Brother…”
Do you have any future plans that you’d like to tell our readers about?
“I have a few resolutions for 2018. My attempts to learn Arabic faltered horrendously during the election, so I am determined to pick that up again. I anticipate a lot of mint tea on Edgeware Road with my patient Arabic-speaking friends!
“I also need to get used to having weekends and the occasional free evening again! The Division Bell was not conducive to regular swimming training - but at least I had an excuse for getting unfit!”
Are you still involved in any local groups or campaigns?
“I have taken a real step back from my activities in Bristol North West – not only because my time is now consumed by my new job, but also out of respect to my successor. No one wants The Ex lurking about, in starting a new relationship! It is always a challenge as a newly elected MP, with so much to do. And every MP, regardless of whether they represent your political views or not, deserves respect as they devote their lives to endeavouring to serve their community.
“I am still a supporter of the amazing Mike Pierce and “The Southmead Project” – a charity which helps put back together lives shattered by abuse – both from domestic abuse and child abuse. If any readers of The Henleaze and Westbury Voice want to support a charity in 2018, support them. I am also still a trustee of Empire Fighting Chance boxing club who do extraordinary work, using boxing to tackle mental and physical health, education, and social inclusion issues.”
Reflecting on your time as MP for Bristol North West, what achievements are you particularly proud of?
“I will always get a bit of a surge of emotion when I see children wearing ‘The Bristol Free School’ uniform, St. Ursula’s not converted to flats, or when I pop in for a pint at The Lamplighters!
“But most of all, I realise that over an amazing decade serving Bristol North West as a candidate and MP, I made so many wonderful, life-long friends. As one chapter closes and another springs energetically open, I realise that the old cliché is very true: The currency that shines out and lasts when career prestige, grand pompous titles, headlines and momentary congratulation inevitably melt away is friendship.
“I am deeply humbled and thankful on a daily basis for the wealth of friendship my time serving Bristol North West has bestowed. Over this period of transition this friendship has shone out in some very practical ways, often involving storage, vans, and help carrying a hoover! I’d like to say a very special thank you to those people, who know who they are. And to everyone reading this, thank you for an amazing decade, and all my very best and warmest wishes for the future!”