Jen Hamilton-Emery

I recently visited ‘Salty Towers’ (headquarters of Salt Publishing), which, as usual, was an inspiring and energising experience.  It was made even more exciting than usual by the fact that Jen Emery, Director, has recently been accepted as the Labour candidate for the forthcoming council elections.  As this is her ‘Next Big Thing’, I asked her if she would give me a short interview for this blog.

What made you decide to stand for election as a local councillor?

There has not been a Labour seat on the North Norfolk District Council for ever and there’s a lot that can be improved in Cromer.  I’ve been involved in several local campaigns.  As a relative newcomer to Norfolk, and a woman, I hope to be able to attract some people to the polling station who didn’t come last time.

What do you want to change in Cromer?

I want there to be decent recreational facilities in the town for everyone, especially children.  What we have now for young people or teenagers is pathetic – almost non-existent.  People retire to Cromer and when they are visited by grandchildren there is nothing for them to do if they can’t go to the beach.  We also need to reduce the car parking charges, in order to attract more visitors and support the town’s retailers.

You’ve been celebrated as the first Labour woman candidate to stand.  Do you think that there is a ‘glass ceiling’ in local councils generally?

I don’t know whether it’s a glass ceiling or whether women just don’t get involved.  I think that the problem really lies with women feeling that they can’t (or don’t want to) get involved in the first place, which is a real pity.  Women make up over 50% of the population and have a valuable perspective to offer, particularly on policies that impact on family and working life.

When do the elections take place?

On the 21st February.

You have been described by the local media as a businesswoman and publisher; you are also a mother.  If you’re elected to the council, how will you juggle all of these activities?

Salt Publishing is bigger than I am and, since the Man Booker success of The Lighthouse, we’ve been able to involve more people.  If I were elected, I’d split my time between the community and Salt.

What is your greatest achievement as a publisher?

Having a business and making it work for thirteen years is quite an achievement, especially as in that time we’ve consistently grown and have become better-known, whilst surviving the impact of the recession.  Getting The Lighthouse shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize is an achievement that is hard to beat.

If you’re elected, do you think that your experiences as a publisher will help you with your work as a councillor?

Yes, because publishing is all about working with people; it is a very people-orientated business and means dealing with everyone in the book supply chain, particularly authors and customers.  This, as well as my background in the NHS, will help me to represent the diverse communities of Cromer.

What are the personal strengths that you feel you can bring as a Cromer councillor?

I’m resilient; I have a sense of humour; I can see controversies from lots of different perspectives; I’m broad-minded, with a strong sense of fair play.

Do you think that you might ever be interested in a role in national politics, if the opportunity arose?

I would be interested in one if it directly benefited the public.  As long as I could have a positive impact on people’s lives, I would not say no.

Within the context of what’s going on in the world today, both socially and economically, and especially what’s happening in the UK, what’s your top message for 2013 to the readers of this blog?

Make it your mission to be aware of what’s happening – there is a lot going on, politically speaking, right under people’s noses (for example, in the areas of health and benefits), that will have drastic long-term effects on people’s lives.  Become super-aware politically and watch what the government is doing (for example, it’s setting one generation against another to detract from the fact that the richest have been given a tax cut).  Make it your mission to find out what’s happening and do something about it: there is no room for apathy these days.

Many thanks to Jen for providing this insight into her exciting venture into local politics.  I should like to wish her every success in the election, as it’s very clear indeed that she has in mind particular practical improvements for the benefit of everyone in Cromer.