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Dedicated Hamilton targets Westminster

Karen-HamiltonThe political conference season kicks off next week when the Liberal Democrats gather in Bournemouth. Parliamentary candidate Karen Hamilton, who is due to give a keynote speech, says she has high hopes for the party

Since 2004, when she was elected as a councillor for Perry Barr ward in Birmingham, Hamilton has established herself as one of the hardest-working local representatives, and is now challenging the incumbent MP Khalid Mahmood in a seat that was once rock solid Labour but is now regarded as winnable by the Lib Dems.

The party are certainly on the up in Britain’s second city. They already have one MP, Jon Hemming in Birmingham Yardley, and are now targeting Perry Barr constituency – which includes the Handsworth neighbourhood – having won three council seats from Labour in the area.

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Floella Benjamin (left) graces the cover of this years' conference report

Hamilton has been central to this political shift, working tirelessly as a street politician, listening and responding to local people’s concerns.

Her drive and determination will now be put to the test at the next general election in a seat where the Lib Dems have more than doubled their vote since 1997, while Labour has lost over a third of its’ support during the same period.

Having built up a solid majority with her council seat, Hamilton said: ‘You never take the electorate for granted, no matter what. I’m never comfortable with my majority and you keep having to work hard for your residents. You’ve got to be out there every day working hard.’

On the eve of the Lib Dem’s annual conference, the last before Britain goes to the polls, Hamilton is upbeat about her party’s chances. ‘I think we’ve got a really good chance because people are sick of the two party system, and are looking for something different. We’ve got to show the electorate that we are a viable alternative.’

Hamiton is due to be one of the keynote speakers at a Rally, alongside party leader Nick Clegg, to officially kick off the annual conference in Bournemouth. Former children’s presenter Floella Benjamin is also being given a profile this year, along with Meekal Hashmi.

Clegg said yesterday that he aims to target Labour in the inner cities at the next election, and seats like Perry Barr will determine how successful that strategy will be.

A financial analyst by trade, Hamilton has now devoted herself full-time to politics since becoming chair of Birmingham’s transport and street services scrutiny committee, and says: ‘I absolutely enjoy my politics, so it doesn’t feel like work.’

Hamilton, a dedicated vegetarian, is often seen taking her two retired greyhounds, Ellie and Marley, around Birmingham’s parks, and has recently rekindled her love of photography. She is also a school governor and keen environmentalist.

She says the main issue at the moment is the fact that “people are switched off politics”, but she is determined to connect with voters, naming fair taxation, tuition fees and reducing fuel poverty as some of the main issues on the doorstep.

As Hamilton’s grassroots approach to politics gains ground locally, she is pleased that the national party are recognising the strides being made in Birmingham. She is certainly striking a quietly confident tone about the progress that has been made. Roll on the general election!

Lester Holloway

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