IN-DEPTH: Long journey to ballot box for Conservative George Lee

IF the general election campaign was a contest for the best life story, George Lee would win hands down. Born in Hong Kong he grew up in abject poverty on a pig farm. He recalls eating food off the streets when his parents left him with a neighbour so th

IF the general election campaign was a contest for the best life story, George Lee would win hands down.

Born in Hong Kong he grew up in abject poverty on a pig farm. He recalls eating food off the streets when his parents left him with a neighbour so they could travel to the UK in search of work.

The neighbour set Mr Lee to work in a toy factory - "a few shacks made from corrugated iron" - at age five.

When he came to the UK five years later he managed to turn his early life - working in his parents' Chinese takeaway in Portsmouth "with no future horizons" - to climbing the ranks of the Ministry of Defence and the police, to ultimately work for MI6 and the top echelons of the force.


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He left that career in 1998 and became a management consultant working for Prudential, Tesco, became Executive Vice President at T-Mobile, worked at Vodaphone and most recently consultancy firm Mercer Oliver Wyman.

Not bad for the "chubby Chinese kid with a snotty nose" he laughs, describing his former self.

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His police career particularly is full of shocking experiences.

"I joined in 81 - it was a very racist, sexist, homophobic organisation," he explains. "The number of fights I had in locker rooms - they would call you all sorts."

He was an officer on the Broadwater Farm riot where PC Blakelock was killed "50 yards in front" of him and on duty when PC Yvonne Fletcher was shot.

Now if elected, he will be the first Chinese MP ever to step foot into the House of Commons.

But this absorbing biography won't be enough to grant the Conservatives a win in Holborn and St Pancras.

With just 6,482 votes at the last election compared to Frank Dobson's winning score of 14,857 this seat is to all intents and purposes unwinnable for the Tories.

They haven't gone for a local candidate either. Mr Lee's family home is actually in Sussex.

If elected he claims it won't be an issue: "It's only 45minutes on a train, as a consultant I stayed in London a lot and I have an apartment here. I am here every day now," he says.

But the fact that the party haven't gone for a strong well-established local politico suggests this isn't a seat they are taking too seriously.

Regardless Mr Lee is as ambitious in politics as he is in his professional life.

"I like to challenge myself," he says, "the only barrier to people succeeding is themselves."

And he says despite the numbers game, they are in with a shout.

"The Liberal Democrats got the Iraq war bounce last time which they won't get again," he says. "The constituency's demographic has changed and the turnout was lower than 40 per cent last time. It is not Labour we are fighting - it is apathy. People like the fact I am an ex-cop and not a career politician."

And he says it is his lack of political background which makes him attractive to voters and Conservative HQ.

"I have never belonged to a political party, this is the first time I will vote for the Conservatives," he laughs.

"What I am interested in is how much my milk and bread cost in the supermarket, if my kid gets sick can they see a doctor and go to a good hospital nearby? Can they go to a local school and get a good education? Will my rubbish be collected on time and when I walk the streets is it safe to do so without someone spitting at me and calling me names? This is what matters not all the crap politicians talk about - that's why people switch off - there are too many career politicians."

This is the camp Mr Lee says current incumbent Mr Dobson is in, as well as his Lib Dem adversary Jo Shaw.

"I have serious questions about Frank Dobson," Mr Lee says. "He is a career politician. Labour are not in power and he is not getting anything for the constituency now. If the Conservatives get in he is not going to get anything either. This is about what people want - do they just want more of the same?"

His comments will no doubt cause some backlash in the area where Mr Dobson is well-liked for his work at the grass-roots level, but Mr Lee is equally as dismissive of the Lib Dem.

"She is a stereotypical Lib Dem who is interested in politics for politics sake," he says. "What can she bring? I think we're in such a mess because we have people in parliament who have no idea how to run the great office of state."

Clearly Mr Lee isn't interested in the niceties of politics and is gunning for his rivals as well as telling voters the Conservatives have something to offer.

Compassionate Conservatism under David Cameron is what attracted Mr Lee to join, and turn down an offer to run for Labour, and he believes it is something he could entice others to vote for as well.

"Compassionate Conservatism is about the ladder and the net," he says. "In the past there has been too much emphasis on the ladder. We will encourage people to climb as fast and high as their skills and luck will take them, but the net is also there to support those who fall off from time to time. That's what David Cameron is about."

His other motivation is reform of public services, particularly the police where again he is hard-hitting on the attack.

"The expansion of state has been ridiculous under Labour - the amount of money they've wasted," he says. "One piece of legislation a day has been passed over the last 13 years but has anything got better? No. There is just massive bureaucracy. When I was an officer you arrested a shop-lifter and did your paperwork in one hour - now my colleagues are in there for eight hours.

"Labour don't improve the conditions of the policemen, get rid of their paperwork and get them on the streets - what do they do? They hire all these plastic policemen - PCSOs and all my mates in the police hate them.

"They are badly paid have no power of arrest - even their colleagues give them no respect and the yobs on the street know it.

"This is why I have come to politics - it is the whole way our public services have been managed."

Given the challenge ahead for the Tories in Holborn and St Pancras Mr Lee's ambition could clearly be regarded as na�ve.

But at all stages of his varied life Mr Lee has been told the same and gone on to prove his sceptics wrong. In three weeks time we will see if he told us so.

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