Giving the people a voice – through political activism and choral singing
26th June 2019
A Labour Party executive and a civil servant from Greg Clark’s government department have spoken of their pride to be included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Andrew Sharp, from Tunbridge Wells, received an OBE for political services, while Sonja Drew, of Staplehurst, was awarded the MBE for public and charitable services.
Andrew has worked for Labour at regional and national level for 25 years, and has also carried out Parliamentary work for various charities.
His political service in a paid capacity or as a volunteer stretches back 46 years.
Andrew was Chair of Tunbridge Wells Constituency Labour Party during the EU Referendum campaign and up to the General Election of 2017.
He said: “I am grateful and honoured to receive this and pleased that political service, which is undertaken by so many people up and down the country, is recognised.
“I respect those, regardless of political persuasion, who get involved in politics to benefit others who do not have a voice.”
He added: “Whether as elected representatives or otherwise, those who are prepared to give up their time and effort to help their local communities by working for the common good benefits the health of our democracy.”
Sonja is Deputy Head of Senior Staff Human Resources at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [BEIS].
She has spent 38 years in the Civil Service, and also worked in the Department of Health and the predecessor to BEIS.
Sonja was instrumental in setting up an internal mediation service, helping colleagues to reconcile their differences and put relationships back on track.
She has also supported staff through restructuring and redundancy and has trained as a mental health first aider.
Sonja runs a departmental choir, which provides relaxation and wellbeing support to her fellow employees.
A BEIS spokesperson told the Times: “She set up the choir at our predecessor, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in 2011 when there was a major restructuring exercise.
“Several hundred people were at risk of redundancy, and the choir provided a focus to support employees through this difficult period.
“The choir is now routinely viewed as a valuable resource for broader staff events, such as our Armistice Day ceremony last November.
“It helps to illustrate the kind of department
it is, with people able to bring their whole selves to work.”
He added: “Sonja regularly organises carol singing by the staff choir, raising funds for local charities and providing wellbeing support at what can be a challenging time of year for many.”
She is also a Licensed Reader in the Church of England, providing active support to members of her local community.
Sonja said: “I am absolutely delighted, I’m feeling humbled and very privileged to have been nominated for this award.
“I very much look forward to sharing the special day at the Palace with my family, and to celebrating with my work and village friends.”