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The Inventory: Sayeeda Warsi

Published in the Financial Times, Saturday 4th February

By Hester Lacey

Sayeeda Warsi, 40, co-chair of the Conservative party and minister without portfolio, is the first female Muslim to serve as a minister in a British government. She was made a life peeress in 2007.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be one of the Famous Five; free in a place without too many rules.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Birkdale High School; Dewsbury College and then Leeds university. My education was a privilege. A lot of Asian girls had traditional parents, and had to fight to stay at school, while my parents were very encouraging.

Who was or still is your mentor?

A law teacher at college called Andrea. Her approach was life-changing. Dad, who’s always had a get-up-and-go approach. In terms of politics, Michael Howard.

How physically fit are you?

More than I was six months ago. I could run for two minutes back then, now I can run for 30.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Success comes because people are in the right place at the right time.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Not that I’m aware of.

How politically committed are you?

Right now, my political commitment is my life.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I don’t have a large carbon footprint. We offset a lot in terms of government travel. I use public transport and I try and walk. I obsess about food miles and always go for local products.

Do you have more than one home?

More than one house, but only one home.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Another few hours in the day; to own time.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Massages and spa treatments.

In what place are you happiest?

At home.

What ambitions do you still have?

There are a couple more political jobs that I would love to do. And another couple of jobs after politics. I think everybody should have at least three careers; I hope to have a few more.

What drives you on?

This sounds a bit twee, but creating understanding between people. If I can play my role in bringing people with differences together, that’s what drives me.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it? 

The scales of justice. The Conservative logo; the hand and the torch and the tree. A crescent – with the Union flag superimposed.

Five stars for my five children. In the middle, a rock of Yorkshire stone with a Yorkshire rose to represent my husband

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

So far, we’re lucky enough to have some really sensible kids.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Never being MP for Dewsbury – I always wanted to represent my home town. On a personal level, I believe in marriage, and have been married for a second time. Divorce and the fact that things sometimes don’t work out is always a disappointment.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“How the hell did you end up where you have ended up?”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I would think, “right, what’s the next big challenge?” You can make anything of yourself if you’re determined.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

No. I can understand why people can feel life has become intolerable, but that path is a slippery slope. It’s such a personal judgment and it would be very hard to regulate and legislate.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I do.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

9.5. I’m very satisfied.

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