I believe in ambition

I was born, grew up and live in London. My father came to Britain in the 1950s to work on the railways and as a bus driver. My parents taught me that if you work hard and believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

After several attempts at being elected, I picked myself up, dusted myself off each time, and ran for office again until I became a Member of the European Parliament representing London in 2005.

In 2013, I was elected the leader of the Conservative MEPs and in 2014 I was honoured to be elected as the Chairman the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, the political group to which the British Conservatives belong in the European Parliament.

At the same time, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group became the third largest in the European Parliament.

However, I have many more goals to achieve in my career.  One of those is to inspire young people from all, but especially poorer, backgrounds to make the best of themselves. I speak at schools, colleges and youth clubs trying to instil the spirit of ambition into young people and explaining to them that whatever their race, religion or family background they can achieve their goals.

People who work hard to better themselves should be able to reap the rewards of that effort.

I believe in opportunity for all

I want to see pupils from all backgrounds have the opportunity to learn to the standards of those whose parents are rich enough to pay for their children’s education. That means opening up new academies and free schools where existing schools have failed, and supporting supplementary schools to provide additional tuition to raise standards.

One of my passions is helping community-based projects tackling poverty and other social problems. I believe that the state can sometimes lead to individuals and communities becoming dependent on hand-outs, rather than genuinely sorting out problems. That is why I firmly believe that it is communities themselves, not government bureaucrats, who are best placed to solve their problems. Of course money is an issue, and that is why I work with these projects to identify funds coming from non-state sources, such as from crowdfunding, or from philanthropists.

I work with community-based projects tackling unemployment, helping former gang members, rehabilitating ex-offenders and helping entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses.  I am also working on setting up a microfinance project to crowdfund loans to entrepreneurs in poorer communities in the UK, based on the Kiva model.

Another major issue confronting our society is high levels of debt.  I have supported the work of charities like MyBnk and pfeg who go directly into schools to help teachers educate their students on learning about how to budget, manage money and to live within our means.

Lastly, sport has also played an important role in my life. As a former co-chairman of the European Parliament’s Friends of Sport cross party group, I made sure sports initiatives were top of the agenda. Until recently I regularly played 5 a side football, although I have reluctantly hung up my boots due to an injury, but hopefully this will be temporarily!

I believe in wealth creation

As an academic and a Visiting Fellow at Leeds University Business School where I used to lecture MBA students in international business strategy, foreign investment and international trade, I have looked at how countries become prosperous. Low taxes and more trade creates wealth; political intervention rarely helps.

As a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, I spend hundreds of hours poring over and debating the minutiae and detail of dozens of regulations and directives to ensure London’s financial services industry is not destroyed, or undermined, by politicians from France and Germany who envy the success of London.

I am also closely involved in scrutinising new trade agreements between the EU and countries including Japan, Singapore and the United States. People often forget that it is people and companies that trade with each other and create wealth, not governments.

It is also important not to forget that most new jobs are created by small businesses, not big ones. I am keen to work with charities like Kiva to look for ways of getting finance to small entrepreneurs so that they can grow their businesses, both here in the UK and abroad.

I believe in human dignity, freedom and democracy

Just as small businesses make a vital contribution to the economy, small charities make an essential contribution to the welfare of those least able to help themselves. That is why I am a patron, along with its founder the BBC’s John Humphrys, of the Kitchen Table Charities Trust that make grants to small charities doing vital work in poorer countries.

It is also necessary to address behaviour in our communities that undermine human dignity, so I try to support the work of charities tackling issues such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence and human trafficking whenever I can.

Personal freedom lies at the root of human dignity. Each month I meet in Brussels with think tanks, politicians, political advisors and representatives of industry to discuss how we can defend freedom and democracy from the ever encroaching power of the Brussels machine.  I would prefer more decisions to be taken as close to the people as possible by returning more powers to local councils and national parliaments. Westminster democracy may not be perfect, but it is preferable to government by the EU.

I also work with faith groups to promote inter-faith dialogue, address social problems and to address religious extremism.