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Everyone should read Labour candidate Tele Lawal’s vital message on what an MP really looks like

Posted by
Anna Brech
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Labour candidate Tele Lawal

For far too long, Westminster has been a closed-off world that operates by a very limited definition of how an MP looks and acts. Labour candidate Tele Lawal is here to challenge the expectation that all politicians should wear suits.

We all know the world of politics is hopelessly entrenched in male privilege and outdated conventions. 

Forty years after Britain elected her first female prime minister, the system is still struggling to adapt to both women and, arguably, anyone who hasn’t come from a background of elite education (the past three prime ministers all studied at Oxford University and two also went to Eton). 

Without a more diverse selection of candidates making it into parliament, the House of Commons and the policies it shapes stand little chance of actually representing the wide range of voices in 21st Century Britain.

Slowly but surely, change is on its way, though: spearheaded by people such as Tele Lawal, the youngest and first black female councillor to serve in the borough of Havering, Essex.  

Lawal, 23, is currently running to be Labour MP for Hornchurch and Upminster in Thursday’s General Election – and has just made a powerful stand over her choice of campaign photo on Twitter.

As Lawal points out, there’s no reason why an MP hopeful such as herself should wear a suit – simply to fulfill some outdated idea of what a politician looks like.

You don’t have to dress a certain way to be an MP. Indeed, all the suits in the world could not cover up an inept approach to real, lasting change. On the other hand, that change can only really happen if the sphere of politics opens up to a wider pool of candidates: those who cross boundaries of a (very limited, unspoken) definition of age, gender, race and dress sense. 

Lawal’s powerful message immediately resonated on Twitter, picking up thousands of retweets and responses.

Other female councillors from across the UK weighed in on the debate.

Still others applauded Lawal’s ability to break the mould of what an MP candidate “should” look like. 

Lawal joined the Labour Party in 2016, after serving as a BAME officer for Havering Young Labour. She’s also a social activist who’s keen to tackle discrimination and youth violence, and promote community cohesion.

“My advice is to believe in yourself and never listen when people say you can’t,” the candidate recently told students at Havering Sixth Form College, where she studied. “Work hard in everything you do and aim high. Don’t look at others, just stay focused on your own journey.”

Image: Tele Lawal/Twitter

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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