Mr George Lee 李澤文先生


Date 25 January 2010  Interviewed by Haiping Niu
Language English    

I have a photo of a ramshackle pig shed. It is a picture of where I was born. Sometimes, searching for other things, I come across it. It is another world now, so far away it is like looking the wrong way through a telescope. But it was where I began.

My parents left rural poverty in Hong Kong for Britain when I was one. My brothers and sisters and I stayed, in the care of a family friend. It was a big change, but not what my parents had hoped. Instead of going to school, we made plastic flowers in a toy factory for the woman they had trusted with our care. I was ten when we joined my parents. I knew one English word when I arrived: 'tomorrow'.

The promise of a better future in that word took my parents to Portsmouth, where they had set up a takeaway. I helped in the kitchen, rushing from school to chop vegetables and prepare for opening. I grew into a teenager at the counter, dealing with drunks and name calling. That seemed to be that.

But my grey council estate comprehensive had one of those teachers who can change the world with a word. One day she said, before the class, she saw me in a suit, jetting around the world. Why, I still have no idea, but she offered a glimpse of a future that did not involve the takeaway, or Portsmouth docks. She enabled me to imagine a tomorrow of my own.

I learned firsthand about survival in the toy factory, and being treated differently at the takeaway. I wanted to stop that happening to anyone else, so I joined the police. I walked the beat, went undercover, fought organised crime. Then I won a police scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. Of all I have done, my parents were most proud of my graduation.

I worked against the racism that was part of the police culture in the 1980s, and helped found the Black Police Association. I left after 17 years as the first Chinese person to reach the rank of Inspector.

My teacher's prediction did come true. I wore the suit as a management consultant advising the Prudential and Tesco on organisational change. I was executive Vice President at T-Mobile. At Vodafone I launched the first mobile multi-media services. Until 2009, I was a senior partner at management consultancy firm Mercer Oliver Wyman.

So why give it up to be a parliamentary candidate? What is in it for me? Many people feel no connection with politics or politicians.

I do not think it should be that way. We have to reconnect with what politics is all about: changing everyday things for the better. It is what I have been trying to do since the toy factory. It is what we all try to do every day.

So that is why I want to be an MP, to play a part in helping people fulfil their promise, and make a society in which anyone can get as far as skill and luck will take them. I would like you to join me in making that happen.

Together, we can change things. There is a better tomorrow in us all.