Nick Clegg visited Hackney on Friday 23 March to meet with ‘Hackney Heroine’ Pauline Pearce, who will stand for his party in the upcoming council by-election in Hackney Central ward.
The Deputy Prime Minister spoke with Ms Pearce at a meeting of Liberal Democrat members and local residents at St John at Hackney Church, where they discussed violent crime and the lack of opportunities for local young people in the borough.
Speaking to the Hackney Citizen, Ms Pearce says she told the Deputy PM she was “honoured” to meet him, to which he replied: “the honour is mine.”
Pauline Pearce gained national fame and admiration last summer when a video of her confronting local youths during the August riots made its way onto YouTube, whilst the brick wall in the video has apparently become a popular backdrop for tourist-style photographs.
“Pauline is a true community hero in Hackney and would be a powerful voice for people here on the council,” said Mr Clegg. “I am proud that she is standing for the Liberal Democrats and I hope the people of Hackney come out and vote for her.”
Ms Pearce was touched when the Liberal Democrats stood by her after stories about her past were revealed in the press. Earlier in her life, Ms Pearce was involved with gangs and served three years in prison for drug smuggling. She says that while other parties deserted her, the Liberal Democrats were like a family embracing a child who had erred: “They believe in second chances, and so do I.”
While strongly opposed to the Coalition government’s spending cuts, Ms Pearce is critical of the Labour party’s record in Hackney, which she says falls short of what they said they would achieve. “People complain about ‘the council’,” she explains, “[but] the council is run by whoever you vote in.”
Many “ethnic minorities” and poor people “are staunch Labour supporters,” and will vote for them automatically, expecting different results from the same people. “Changing that mindset is going to be the hard thing.”
Despite being endorsed by a senior parliamentarian, Ms Pearce recognises she has a difficult task ahead of her: “It’s important for me to stay grounded,” she told us, stressing the importance of her loyal support base. “I don’t want to let anyone down.”
Loosening the hold of the Labour party on Hackney’s local government will be a challenge, she says, but Ms Pearce is encouraged by her experiences canvassing. “People on the street say, ‘you, I will vote for you, because I know you are a good person’.”
The council byelection will take place on Thursday 3 May.