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Camden News - By RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 6 August 2009
Conservative George Lee is aiming to win the Holborn and St Pancras seat at the next general election
Conservative George Lee is aiming to win the Holborn and St Pancras seat at the next general election
‘Mystery’ Tory will take on Dobson

Former cop Conservative challenging for safe Labour seat reveals man behind the posters

HIS calling card is carefully designed to generate a clever bit of intrigue.
Masked by a cartoon silhouette on the posters and fliers that have burned a trail through Camden Town in recent weeks, George Lee looks like a secret agent. A man of mystery. The Milk Tray man even.
But the task ahead will be harder than abseiling down a tower block to deliver a box of chocolates to a swooning beauty.
Some might say that however uncomfortable recent electoral swings have been for his avun­cular opponent, Frank ­Dobson, trying to steal his parliamentary seat is a mission impossible for this one-time action hero.
Mr Lee, 47, came out of the shadows this week, introducing himself as the Conservative Party’s ­latest challenger to Mr Dobson.
Tories who have tried and failed in Holborn and St Pancras before include Margot James, the businesswoman now touted as a possible future minister when elected elsewhere in the country, and former Prime Minister John Major – then a young chancer who was defeated at the polls by Jock Stallard more than three decades ago.
The new face is now dispensing with his gimmicky “Who Is George Lee?” leaflet in favour of meet-and-greets, a new website and a Twitter feed.
The fact is that some local Conservatives couldn’t have answered that question on the poster until a few months ago when Mr Lee came from seemingly nowhere to win an open primary event and the candidacy.
What they have learned about their new friend is of a former life as a daredevil, a lightning climb from a pig shed in Hong Kong to a senior policeman taking on racist bullies at Scotland Yard as well as the bad guys.
Mr Lee swears he can show you a chipped bobby’s helmet that was damaged in the perilous Broadwater Farm riots in 1985, a grim souvenir of frontline action.
“The guy next to me had his shield disintegrate and he was hit in the side of the head with a pellet,” Mr Lee recalls. “I think there was a moment during the riots where I realised I could go on doing the same thing and get higher and higher up, or I could go and do something different and help the community.”
He speaks with a smile of nicking crooks while patrolling Russell Square and Leicester Square – especially the ones that called him “Chinky” – but maybe he is prouder of what he did off the streets.
The first Chinese police officer to reach a senior rank in the Met, he set up the Black Police Association to help make life easier for minority ethnic officers.
“I know that when I left things were better than when we got there,” says Mr Lee. “I think there may be bits of racism in the police, but it reflects society – there sadly is racism in society and that carries over to all walks of life.”
The same reflection in the Conservative party then?
“I don’t think that’s the case – there are candidates from all backgrounds in the party,” he said during an interview on Friday. “I think the old view of an old colonel from Cheltenham being all the party has to offer is outdated. It’s not like that at all.”
Mr Lee often mentions his humblest of origins in the world and his “I was born in a pig shed” tale will no doubt be recounted again on the election trail as a story intended to inspire.
“I remember one time I was so hungry that I saw a bit of bread left on the road and I picked it out of the dirt and ate it,” he recalls. His parents left for England, setting up a takeaway in Portsmouth. Mr Lee joined them later as a small child, arriving without a word of English. “The chubby Chinese kid” was teased at school but he said his rise – via extra English classes and a police scholarship at Cambridge – shows that “if he can do it, anybody can”. Since leaving the police, he has worked in business and projects for Vodafone and Tesco.
“I joined the party last year because I think people are enthused about the possibility of change,” said Mr Lee. “The people I have spoken to feel let down but enthusiastic that things can change.”
But the thorny question still remains. However personable, however daring his past life, how can he realistically win in a constituency which has traditionally been a safe haven for Labour. What’s more, the Liberal Democrats have already positioned themselves, through candidate Jo Shaw, as the most likely, if any, to finally bring Mr Dobson down. Mr Lee seems slow off the blocks in comparison. Furthermore how do you take on a Labour candidate who is happy to criticise his own government on some of the same issues – don’t you end up agreeing with each other?
“I don’t want the conversation to be about Frank, I’m not running a negative, anti-Frank campaign,” insists Mr Lee. “Before I came here, I didn’t look at the constituency results. This is a new campaign and about the change I can bring. What’s better, to have someone who is in a party likely to form the new government standing up for the area, or somebody criticising his own party as they fall out of power?”
And so Mr Lee won’t be disappointed if Tory central office don’t think his campaign is a priority and leaves his challenge to the efforts of volunteers and students?
He adds: “I don’t think people are necessarily interested in who comes down for photocalls. They are interested in what we are saying as a party.”

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