By Thanasis Gavos
SUZY Stride, a 33-year old Labour candidate in next month’s UK General Election has high hopes of becoming the first British MP with Greek Cypriot roots.
Her maternal grandparents moved to East London in the 1950s from Eptakomi in today’s Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. She was raised in a family with a “fully Greek Cypriot” mother and she usually visits the island three times a year. She recently visited her grandmother’s house in Eptakomi, only to find it crumbling.
Stride was the only one in her year to study at Cambridge, where one of her two sisters and her brother also studied. Her brother is the CEO and the soul of a local charity called ‘City Gateway’, which helps to upskill and train local young people and adults into work.
Suzy has been working there since leaving university and this is where she experienced the problems facing vulnerable citizens. It all played a key role in her deciding to contest the Harlow seat.
“Ι am passionate about bringing change through Westminster to local communities. Through seeing homes built in Harlow, jobs provided, the NHS protected and town centre regeneration,” she told CNA.
Her other major preoccupation as an MP would be the promotion of the Cyprus issue and the need for a just settlement: “I am clearly also very passionate about helping to bring resolution to the Cypriot issue. The fact that Nicosia remains the last divided capital city in the world, that Famagusta remains a ghost town and many people including my family lost land and homes and friends due to the illegal occupation of northern Cyprus motivates me.
“Recently I was in Eptakomi and saw the smashed up graveyard where my grandfather is buried, we could not find his tombstone because the graveyard was so destroyed. There is lots of hurt and sadness, but change is possible as is resolution and I would like to be involved in this.”
Although she is not fluent in Greek, her openness and the way she talks, with lots of gestures betray her roots. “That’s how I start my speeches: I am a cockney and a Greek Cypriot, and this means I often speak at the speed of light. This is who I am,” she says jokingly, but quite accurately.
To the UK Cypriots she promises to work hard. “One of the things I have learnt from my Greek Cypriot roots is that hard work is the key to success; I think that’s what people will expect of me and I won’t let them down,” she said, asking for the community’s support in the run up to the May 7 election.
She says the Labour Party is “pretty close” to the Cypriot community and that many of the party’s policies, such as supporting small business, will chime with members of the community.
As far as the main issues in the election campaign agenda are concerned, Suzy says she is “optimistic about Britain’s future but not complacent,” as the next government needs to address the structural problems in the British economy.
She also warns against turning migrants into scapegoats. “If history teaches us anything it is that there is always a danger of intolerance and that this increases in times of economic hardship. We just have to look across the water to Greece and observe the rise of the Golden Dawn to underline this.”
That means that she wants the UK in the European Union, “because it’s in the best interests of the UK to be in the EU. That does not mean there are not areas that do not need reform though.”