All about me, and why I’d be a good councillor!

A virtual interview – with myself!

Name – Karen Tracy Varga

Age – 45

Occupation – Project Support Officer at The Vegan Society in Birmingham. Mum, homemaker, carer for my daughter who is diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition, and campaigner.

I believe I should be a councillor because
I care about people. I work really hard when I am passionate about something, and I have undertaken many volunteering jobs, because I believe community and people are important. I really want to see a change in our society to a much more equal and fair place where those who are the richest are just a little less rich and the support those who are poorest, weakest and need help, usually, despite what the highly biased newspapers say, through no fault of their own is improved and not based on profit. I especially care about those who struggle to have their voice heard: – the elderly; the disabled; people who haven’t had some of the life chances others have; people with mental illness; carers; children; single parents; the small business person; the worker on minimum wage; the small-holder; and of course animals and nature, to name but a few. I also think Climate Change is happening (faster and faster) and we need a long-term plan to minimise it and help those affected by it as it impacts more and more (especially on the poorest and least able to cope with it). We cannot continue taking resources from the planet at the rate we are – we have to slow down, and then stop – the planet is not a never-ending supply – it will run out eventually – our best hope is if we all work together on that.

The best thing about this area is
The wonderful countryside and all my friends and colleagues; personally and in the charity, not-for–profit, campaigning and voluntary sectors.

The worst things about this area are
Apathy, lack of support for people with autism (and disabled people and their families in general), the poor public transport, the lack of planning for the future, too much animal farming and a real lack of opportunity and support for young people.

The treasury has given you £1 million to spend on a specific project in the constituency. How would you spend it?
As a councillor I wouldn’t have this opportunity – but I’ll leave my old answer in (from the general election!)
£1 million unfortunately doesn’t go far. I think insulating homes – first those on pensions, benefits and low incomes and then people who could afford it would pay back the cost through their lowered heating bills, to be re-invested in other energy-saving plans. This would reduce fuel poverty, create jobs and reduce carbon emissions. Investing in reducing energy usage combined with a big programme of improving homes and investing in renewables would improve the country’s energy security, create jobs and help people be warm and secure in the homes for years to come.

Favourite place in the constituency?
My back garden! The fields, community orchard and nature reserve in Alcester accompanied by our companion animals Cara nad Alfie. Also the garden at Lifeways Centre, and the canal towpaths.

Where would you choose to spend a night out in the constituency?
I’d love to be able to afford the theatre – but I can’t. I do enjoy a meal out occasionally and there are lots of great pubs (but sadly fewer and fewer seemingly by the week), but places where vegans can get a good and interesting meal are rather thin on the ground. I do enjoy a good curry as vegans are well catered for in Indian restaurants.

My greatest fear is
My children’s future: – jobs, housing, cuts to the health service and support for people with disabilities, peak oil and the changing climate will make life much, much harder for them.

My proudest moment was
Becoming a mother to my 2 beautiful daughters.

My most embarrassing moment was?
Cleaning my Dyson vacuum cleaner by putting the head in a bucket of water – and turning it on! (I’m a qualified electronics engineer – I should have known better!!)

What makes you laugh?
I love comedy! Mark Thomas, Bill Bailey, Marcus Brigstock. No Pressure To Be Funny, The Now Show, News Quiz, Newsjack (Radio 7), Bleak Expectations and Mock The Week! My absolute favourite though is the incredibly silly but also very clever ‘Cabin Pressure’. I LOVE IT!

What makes you angry?
Intolerance, injustice, prejudice and discrimination. Rhetoric, mis-information and spin. Lobbying by large corporations. Voter apathy and ‘tactical’ voting.

Your Favourites:

Food – I love food! I wish vegetarians and vegans were better catered for locally. A restaurant in the area like Terre a Terre, or Food for Friends in Brighton, or Tibits in London, would be amazing – if I were rich I’d open a great vegetarian/vegan restaurant!

Book – Mendel’s Dwarf by Simon Mawer, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Spirit Level.

Film – The Age of Stupid, The Green Mile, Hugo.

Music – Folk and Rock, especially Show of Hands. I steward at the Warwick Folk Festival – it’s brilliant!

Sport – I like walking and cycling. I’m not a fan of competitive sports – does gardening count??!

The (living) person(s) I most admire is(are) – my daughters, Arundhati Roy and Caroline Lucas (yep I know that’s 2!).

I would least like to be stuck in a lift with – Tony Blair, Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron and Jordan/Katie Price. (oh and lets add Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson to that list!)

My top three dinner guests (alive or dead) would be – Aristotle, Caroline Lucas, John Finnemore (writer of Cabin Pressure) and Bill Bailey (Comic) (and yep – that’s more than 3!).

I would like to have had more time with – My Dad, who was a refugee from Hungary in 1956 after the Uprisings against the Russian invasion and died when he was only 52, and my Granddad as he could have taught me more of his gardening tips!

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