Hackney Post interviews Pauline Pearce, Hackney Liberal Democrat’s mayoral candidate, who rose to fame for single-handedly fighting off looters during the London riots.
“One thing you learn with Pauline – you always run on her time.” These are the words of Ben Mathias, chair and campaign manager for Hackney Liberal Democrats, who eagerly makes small talk during our 30-minute wait for the real interviewee herself – I presume he’s there to keep Pauline’s behaviour in check, something that later proves true.
Rushing into Dalston shopping centre’s Costa with profuse apologies and the comment “I’ve just had a jab in my bum from the doctor!” quickly confirmed my suspicions.
Pauline’s mixed experiences throughout life have given her a feisty edge and a no-nonsense attitude. Having spent three years in jail for drug smuggling, she is now the mayoral candidate for Hackney Liberal Democrats. Previously, she was well known for jazz singing and her role as a part-time community radio DJ, where she discussed knife crime. However, her true rise to fame culminated from the London riots of 2011, where she beat off looters with a walking stick and held off youths from attacking a photographer, all while recovering from breast cancer.
After a video of these events went viral, earning her the title of ‘Hackney heroine’, Pauline was presented with a peace award by Boris Johnson and approached by different political parties.
“It suddenly became evident that all I was doing was political, and then it dawned on me that it would make sense to get involved with someone. I had this sting where someone said I was still selling drugs and such, trying to basically damage my credibility after everything that had gone on with the riots.”
All of the parties stopped contacting Pauline, except for the Liberal Democrats.
“It’s like being in a school gang where you can have a fight after lessons with the other school. You’re walking down and they’re coming forward, and when you get to confront each other you look back and there’s only one man standing with you.”
“I needed a second chance in life and there are so many out there that do too – so why wouldn’t I fight for them as well?”
She goes on to list issues that she would aim to change within Hackney, such as gentrification and recycling (much to Ben’s approval). However, one problem that really seems to grind her gears is the public’s lack of knowledge about politics.
“When I talk to my friends and they say ‘oh no I’m not into all that politics’ I say where do you live? ‘A council house’ – that’s politics. The yellow lines on the road? Politics. The medication you take? Politics. Even the toothpaste, how many ounces go into a tube, it’s all politics!” she proclaims while passionately waving around a bacon and cheese panini.
“So don’t ever tell me you’re not into it, you’re into it by default. Whether you want to be or not, you wake up, you go to bed, it’s politics. So let’s embrace it and accept it. I am political even if I don’t want to be.”
Currently, Pauline is involved with the organisation ‘Social Butterflies’, a ten-week programme that works with the most challenging young people in schools, who have been identified as most at risk of permanent exclusion.
“Pointing things out to them helps them to acknowledge where they’ve gone wrong, and they come in like ‘yeah right you can’t change me’ and all this attitude, but by the end of the ten weeks they’re begging us not to go.”
Of course, she does not always take the softest approach.
“One kid kept punching me on my arm being like ‘miss!’ and was just being really horrid, so I said ‘listen I’ll knock your block off’. When you give them that same attitude back it knocks them.”
“I am a people’s person, but can be damn strict when I need to. I am compassionate, but I can kick some ass, too.”
On that note, she receives a phone call, excusing herself and picking it up to say in a slightly softer tone, “are you ready? I’ll come and pick you up now.”
She packs up her bag and throws on a coat, with an aside “that’s my disabled neighbour Fey, I said I’d help walk her back home.”
After saying a quick goodbye and rushing off, I’m left to ponder her words. Not many would grab their keys and eagerly go out onto the battlefield during a crisis, I think.
After all, how many politicians do you know that would fight off looters during a riot with their walking stick?