As a passionate believer in business engagement with the community, I take pride in the fact that Iceland is so firmly rooted in the 1,000 communities where we have stores, with the great majority of our store colleagues living within walking distance of their workplace, so that they are serving their own neighbours, families and friends.
I also enjoy engaging with local communities directly, to understand the issues that concern people the most. I have approached my entry to politics in the same way as I started in the family business: on the front line. Knocking on doors and listening to the concerns of real people.
I was delighted to to serve as The Prince’s Responsible Business Ambassador for Wales at Business in the Community.
I was deeply involved in the creation of Backyard Nature – an initiative inspired by a group of young, inner-city environmentalists from Anfield in Liverpool, and supported by the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation. Backyard Nature inspired a million hours of nature engagement for children throughout the UK and provided them with tools to protect their own local patches of nature, including giveaways through Iceland stores of seedballs and bug hotels. The Bugingham Palace bug hotel created by our young eco-warrior friends in Anfield was honoured by a visit from Prince William and featured in his documentary A Planet For Us All.
I am on the approved list of Conservative Parliamentary Candidates and am very excited by the potential prospect of contesting a seat for the party at the next general election.
There can be no greater privilege than to serve the local community as its democratically elected Member of Parliament.
Amongst other local electioneering, I was heavily involved in actively campaigning for the Conservative candidates in the North Shropshire by-election of 2021 and the City of Chester by-election of 2022, and will be campaigning in several wards for the local government elections scheduled for May 2023.
If I have learnt one thing about the world of campaigning it is how vital local political activism is. The Conservative Party, ultimately, is nothing without its members. They are the people who keep the party afloat locally with their subscriptions and voluntary fund raising. They are the people who find people to fly the flag for the party as local government candidates – in good times as well as bad. They get them nominated, they deliver their literature, they knock on doors and talk to voters, they discover poster sites and they help to get out the vote on polling day. Without this magnificent volunteer workforce, the party cannot function in the long-term. Association Officers and Ward activists keep the whole party organisation ticking and we forget that at our peril.
And as an approved Conservative Party Parliamentary candidate, I am fully committed to playing a similarly energetic and hands-on role. I strongly believe that both parliamentary candidates, and Members of Parliament, should continually and steadfastly work alongside Conservative Councillors at a local level. Councillors do a fabulous job and yet, too often, remain unsung heroes within constituencies. There is no doubt that a strong working partnership between Members of Parliament and local government representatives is fundamental to resilient and joined-up government in this country.
That is why, in my view, Members of Parliament need to be a constituency’s representative in parliament rather than the other way around! The constituency, its community leaders and its electors must always be the primary responsibility and focus for a Member of Parliament. And that mindset must always prevail irrespective of the various responsibilities a Member of Parliament may have at Westminster. Constituency must always come first.
If I am fortunate enough first to be chosen as a candidate, and then to be elected to Parliament, I am committed to devoting my full attention to my duty to constituents as their MP.
We are always told how Westminster politics lacks people with a solid track record in, and understanding of, business. People who understand what it is to create jobs, sustain employment, provide a genuine public service and create wealth. Richard Walker is exactly the type of individual that perfectly fits the bill. He will make an outstanding Member of Parliament not only for his constituents but also for the Party nationally. We are truly lucky to have somebody of his calibre.
The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP
I believe that successful businesses and individuals have a duty to support the less fortunate members of society not only by paying their fair share in taxes, but also through enlightened philanthropy.
The Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation, of which I am a Chairman, has supported a wide range of good causes in the UK since it was founded in 1973, and is currently focused on four key areas: dementia, wellbeing, children and the environment.
The guiding principle of the IFCF has always been to focus our support on smaller charities in relatively neglected areas, where we believe we can make a real difference. That determination to make a real difference is also what drives me to seek a role in public life.
Like millions of others across the UK, my family was directly impacted by dementia when my late Mum was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. The next year my Dad (then 65) and I took part in the Iceland Everest Expedition, which raised more than £1 million for Alzheimer’s Research UK and duly carried the Iceland flag to the summit of Everest, though my Dad and I turned back – as planned – after reaching the North Col at 23,031ft (7,020m).
In Spring 2023 I will return to Everest with the climber and adventurer Kenton Cool to complete my mission by making a rapid ascent to the summit with the aim of raising a further £1.0 million to mark the 50th anniversary of the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation. The expedition is entirely self-funded and every penny raised will be donated to the National Brain Appeal to help fund the creation of the world’s first Rare Dementia Support Centre. You can read more about the expedition here.
In total the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation (IFCF) has directly given more than £17 million to dementia research since 2011 and I am proud to be an Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
A death from sepsis in a colleague’s family opened my eyes to the threat posed by this silent killer, which is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide yet is also eminently treatable if the symptoms are recognised quickly. We have therefore focused on raising public awareness of the symptoms of sepsis by partnering with the UK Sepsis Trust to develop and fund a series of campaigns including Schools Against Sepsis and Sepsis Savvy, designed to encourage businesses to promote awareness among their employees.
IFCF has donated over £3 million to children’s charities and since 2020 I have helped us to forge a partnership with Action For Children, supporting ‘Secret Santa’ donations of hot meals and warm clothing for children in need across the UK at Christmas, and this year creating an emergency fund to help support the 3.9 million children currently living in poverty in the UK.
As a trustee, I have secured IFCF’s support for a range of initiatives including Surfers Against Sewage’s annual Million Mile Cleans of beaches, rivers and streets across the UK; the Wildlife Trusts Wales’ ambitious plans to restore all Welsh peatlands by 2030; and the Backyard Nature campaign designed to reconnect urban children with the natural world.
In addition to being a Chairman of IFCF I am also a Trustee of the leading conservation charity Fauna & Flora International, an Ambassador to the Wildlife Trusts, and Patron of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust