OBV Profile: Adeela Shafi

The Bristol lecturer was selected in January as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Bristol East and has high hopes of overturning a projected Labour majority of over 7,000 to secure victory for the party.

Her broad appeal lies in the fact that she is a local and more significantly, she is the only Muslim woman currently representing the Tories at the next General Election.

Whether this is enough to woo the area's Muslim community, who are traditional Labour party voters, to her party still remains to be seen - but it is a challenge that Shafi maintains is worth facing.

"I know that there are many Pakistani Muslims who say 'we've always voted Labour so let's leave it at that'," said Shafi, "but I hope that because I'm a Conservative party representative people will listen to me because our core beliefs are not shared by the Labour party."

The 35 year-old parliamentary candidate cites two reasons for embarking on a late career in politics. The first is to actively overturn the negative stereotypes of Muslims at home and abroad and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Following the earthquake, which claimed the lives of hundreds of the country's civilians, Shafi and her husband, Ijaz, were instrumental in raising £117,000 in just 12 days for relief goods to go directly to the victims. Subsequently, she organised fine art auctions in Pakistan to raise funds for another £160,000 to rebuild a school destroyed in the earthquake. She later received a commendation from the Pakistani government for her contribution to the relief and rehabilitation work in the aftermath of the quake.

"Doing work for the earthquake victims in Kashmir made me realise that you can make a difference and that is one of the reasons that I decided to become a politician."

If elected, Shafi hopes to improve state-funded education in Bristol and abolish the use of mendacious statistics that are used to cover up the failings of some UK schools.

"It has become clichéd because politicians always talk about education but it is important. We almost forget because everybody says it. I'm at that stage where I'm choosing a secondary school for my daughter and so I understand how difficult it is for parents.
It's not about targets or grading. Schools should be trying to produce all rounded individuals who come out with a good work ethic, responsibility for themselves and manners. It sounds old fashioned but kids today could benefit from them."

Born in Southmead Hospital to Pakistani parents, Shafi has lived and worked in Bristol all her life. Having attended the local schools and college, she went on to study Psychology at Bristol University.

After graduation she lectured at Soundwell College, four years after sitting her A-levels there. When she is not campaigning on behalf of her party, the young mother splits her time between lecturing at the University of the West of England and taking care of her husband and four children.

Her success in Bristol is a breakthrough in David Cameron's attempts to modernise the Conservative party's image. However, while Shafi welcomes the greater diversity in the party she falls short of supporting her leader's efforts to use manufactured priority lists to ensure it.

"Being selected [to fight for the Bristol East seat] is a testimony to the fact that the party wants to change and they need to change to truly represent Britain as much as they can. At the same time, I'm not in favour of these all women shortlists and all black shortlists because I believe that anyone who is really competent is going to get in what ever."