Charlotte Vere is the Chairman of C-WiSE (Conservative Women in Small Enterprises) and National Organiser for NO2AV, a cross-party group campaigning for a No vote in next year�s referendum.
Charlotte stood as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in Brighton Pavilion in the last General Election.
Prior to her involvement in politics, Charlotte was the CEO of Big White Wall, a socially responsible business spearheading the provision of mental health therapies online. She also led a network of Young Ambassadors for Samaritans, including Ed Vaizey MP and the jazz singer Jamie Cullum, which raised over £200,000 for the charity. Charlotte has also been a Finance Director for a recruitment company.
She has an MBA from a top business US business school and a degree in Biochemical Engineering.
I spoke to Charlotte as she criss-crossed the country campaigning for a vote against changes to the current electoral system, which will take place next year. However, I started by asking Charlotte about C-WISE, a group whose stated aim is to give ” Professional & Entrepreneurial Women a Voice in their Future”
“More and more small & micro-businesses are started by women, so it is vital that their voice is heard and every help is given to them. It is easy to feel isolated and C-WISE aims to give women in these smaller organisations the opportunity to meet with each other and to talk through issues that effect them and to create a forum to explore the things that they feel government should be doing for their business.”
According to Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Affairs (BERR) statistics in January 2006, 95% of the 4.4 million Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK had fewer than 10 employees. These are Micro-Businesses and their needs are very different from SMEs, where a Small Business is defined as one that has a turnover of not more than £6.5m and not more than 50 employees.
C-WISE, which will be formally launched at the Conservative Party Conference, is part of the Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO).
CWO aims to enable women, whether they are Party members or not, to speak face to face with Parliamentarians. Panel meetings are set up to give women the opportunity to come and discuss issues in which they have a particular interest, with Conservative Members of Parliament and Ministers.
Charlotte explains, “Women do not need to be party members to get involved but they do need to share the values and objectives of the Conservative Party. While we are in an era of coalition and will reach out to Liberal Democrat ministers as well as Conservative ministers and MP’s, C-WISE is very much an organisation for Conservative women. In particular C-WISE members will have the opportunity to put their views direct to the front bench team with responsibility for Business and the Treasury. ”
“Many of the issues that we will discuss effect men in small business too, but issues like maternity and paternity leave, flexible working and how to raise finance do have a greater impact on the lives of working women.”
I asked Charlotte how she became involved.
“I have been involved with the Conservative Party for quite a few years. I campaigned with Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park and went on to become Conservative Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion.”
This was a momentous election as 4 parties put up candidates that were 40-something females.
Nancy Platts, the trade unionist who defended Labour’s majority in the seat, was selected from a women-only shortlist. The Liberal Democrat candidate was Bernadette Millam, a single mother and nurse. The Green Party fielded its leader Caroline Lucas MEP and Charlotte herself was selected as the Conservative candidate after beating three men in an open primary. For completeness, there was a male candidate, Nigel Carter of UKIP.
“I stood for parliament as I really wanted to make a change. I wasn’t successful on the night and put myself forward for election as chair of the newly formed C-WISE womens group. It wasn’t always in my mind to go into politics, it was more of a natural progression. My most recent business, Big White Wall was a social enterprise and this exposed me to the public sector. I have a strong business background and have a good idea of what businesses need and what they can do. C-WISE gives me the perfect opportunity to focus on small businesses and to help women find their voice and grow their businesses in this challenging economic environment.”
As well as being chairman of C-WISE, Charlotte has taken a full-time role campaigning for a NO vote in next years referendum on electoral reform (http://no2av.org). While leading tories such as William Hague have agreed to keep a low profile to avoid putting further strain on the coalition, Lord Leach of Fairford, the Tory peer who helped bankroll the anti-euro Business for Sterling pressure group, and the Tory MP George Eustice, a former key figure in that campaign, will be prominently involved. The NO2AV campaign is a cross-party campaign, the Chairman being the aforementioned Lord Leach of Fairford.