Deputy mayor plans to contest Waveney seat in general election
- Credit: Mick Howes
A town's deputy mayor says more needs to be done to tackle racism in politics as she considers running to be Waveney's MP in 2024.
Nasima Begum, 32, who has been involved in local politics for the past five years, runs Lowestoft Tandoori with her husband and works in finance at East Coast College.
She served as town councillor for the Harbour and Normanston ward from 2017 to 2019 and has been town councillor for St Margaret's West ward since 2021.
She now has her eyes set on running as Labour parliamentary candidate for Waveney in the next general election - scheduled to be held in 2024 - but has to go through the formal process before being put on the ballot.
The Waveney seat is currently held by Conservative MP, Peter Aldous.
Mrs Begum says she is also ready for the challenges of being a non-white candidate - having experienced online racism and Islamophobia in the past.
"I joined the Labour party seven years ago when Bob Blizzard was still a part of the party," she said.
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"My first experience of politics was standing as a Labour candidate for the county council in Beccles.
"We created a social media platform as part of the campaign and this is where I experienced my first form of racism in local politics.
"Comments said that councillors should be British-born and this put me off politics for a while.
"However, I've never had abuse in person in Lowestoft.
"I then stood for the St Margaret's East ward at district council level and again I noticed my fellow candidate received more votes than me.
"I just assumed it was because of my race."
Mrs Begum was inspired to go further in politics because of her late father.
She said: "My father was a prominent politician in Bangladesh and over 15,000 people attended his funeral.
"He had a huge influence in Bangladesh and always inspired me to achieve anything I set my mind to.
"It is what spurred me to recently join the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, which I was shocked to get onto because they usually don't pick candidates in safe constituency seats.
"It has been inspiring to meet powerful women and has persuaded and influenced me to consider putting my name forward at the next general election."
One of the main issues Mrs Begum has seen across the Lowestoft and Waveney area is the level of council tax compared to other areas across the county.
"Council tax in Waveney is an issue because central government have not funded our councils properly over the years," she said.
"I've had life experiences where at one point myself and my husband were in absolute poverty and only had 34p to our name so I understand what it is like to struggle in a deprived area.
"It is sometimes frustrating the lack of power we have to influence change at town council level.
"Another huge issues is adult education and the fact that only 16 to 19 year olds can do A Levels which limits people's ambitions and pushes them into jobs and positions which they may not be interested in pursuing.
"Another huge talking point is pushing for a medical hub in the north of Lowestoft.
"So much of the elderly in Lowestoft and Waveney are geographically far away from any kind of hospital so this is something I would push for with the Norfolk and Waveney CCG."
During her time in local politics, Mrs Begum enjoys casework and making a difference to everyday lives.
"Politics is about serving the needs and improving services for local constituents.
"The Lowestoft and wider Waveney community have been so supportive of me during my time at the town council and at the Lowestoft Tandoori with myself and my husband.
"I want to have a greater say in the wider issues that impact everyday people in the area and I think working to improve the lives of everyone in the community would be at the heart of my manifesto pledge."