If you met Carolyn Harris when she was working as a barmaid or a dinner lady or selling shoes you might not expect she would one day stand at the despatch box of the House of Commons as a Shadow Home Office minister.
But this daughter of a bus driver who now campaigns alongside Diane Abbott has had a passion for politics since the age of eight when she would knock on a councillor’s door and ask for election posters and stickers.
There was a time when going to university seemed like an audacious idea for Ms Harris, 56. But aged 34 she became a student and joined the Labour party and her world changed.
Now she is on a mission to persuade other women they should shake-up politics so they can change everyday life.
Ms Harris joined the Commons in 2015 and she has won nationwide attention for her campaign to scrap council charges for children’s funerals.
This is very personal territory for the Swansea East MP.
Her son, Martin, died at the age of eight in a road accident in 1989. She needed a whip-round by friends and a bank loan to pay for the burial costs.
Ms Harris had real hopes that Chancellor Philip Hammond would use his first Budget to announce that the charges would become a thing of the past.
She was dismayed by his silence on the subject.
“I’ll be honest with you,” she said. “I was devastated.
“I honestly thought it was such an easy thing for the Government to do.”
She admits that after the disappointment of Budget day she is “angrier now” and describes how the Chancellor would not meet her gaze when Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue.
“They couldn’t look me in the eye because they knew what they did was wrong,” she said. “They should have put something in there.
“That could have softened a lot of blows for them. They didn’t so the fight goes on.”
Discussing such issues in the glare of the national limelight has come at a cost for Ms Harris.
She said: “Personally, it cost me a lot of pain to go public with that. It ruined our Christmas because I actually started re-grieving.
“All over Christmas, I physically felt as if I had flu. But I know I was really grieving for Martin.
“Emotionally, it cost me a lot. I’m over that now.
“I’ve come through the other side of that. Now I’m ready to be a little bit more militant.”
She has no trouble understanding why so many people do not vote or would never think of getting involved in politics and remembers why she avoided joining the party for so long.
“I didn’t think I knew enough to be a member of a political party,” he said. “I know differently know, but I think that’s a problem with a lot of people – they assume to be a member of a political party you have to know all there is to know about politics…
“They don’t vote because they think they don’t understand politics and they don’t realise that politics is what causes everyday life to go round.”
A lack of confidence can also stop people grasping opportunities.
Ms Harris, whose mother worked at Marks & Spencer for 45 years, attended grammar school but going to university did not seem an option.
She said: “I can remember one chap in my whole community going to university throughout my childhood and we thought he was Bamber Gascoigne… Certainly no girls went to university.”
Entering higher education did not seem like a realistic option, but this did not stop her dreaming about it.
“I wanted to actually be a medical doctor and convinced myself I could never do it, I could never go to university,” she said. “It wasn’t a subject I even discussed with my parents because it was like a secret ambition – one day I will go to university but I’m not going to say it now because I’m going to look foolish.”
Instead, she left school to start work at the DVLA.
Carolyn is one of thousands of people to have worked for the DVLA
But a turning point came in her thirties when she stopped by a jobs fair she took an aptitude test.
“It came out I could either be a brain surgeon or an astronaut,” she said.
These did not seem likely career paths, but she enrolled on a Swansea University foundation course. Then she applied to study for a degree in Social History and Social Policy.
She recalled: “When I actually got the letter to say I’d been accepted I thought they must have the wrong person… I spent my entire time in university expecting them to say, ‘We got this mixed up.’”
This feeling hasn’t entirely gone away.
She said: “I’ve spent my entire time in parliament thinking some day somebody’s going to tell me, ‘Oh, I think we’ve got the wrong person here, you didn’t really win.’”
As a student she devoured literature, relishing works by Tolstoy, Jack Kerouac and George Orwell. She studied under Prys Morgan, the brother of former First Minister Rhodri Morgan.
After graduating she helped run a youth centre in Neath, worked as a fundraiser for a children’s cancer charity and became constituency manager for then-Swansea East MP Sian James.
A crucial influence on her journey into frontline politics was Val Feld, a legendary figure in Welsh Labour circles who campaigned for devolution and served as the first Assembly Member for the constituency.
Her friend, she said, gave her “guts”.
“It was a really meaningful friendship,” she said. “In fact, when I discovered I was having Tomas, who’s my 15-year-old, Val was the first person I told.”
Ms Feld, who died in 2001, encouraged her to consider standing for election. She received another push when Sian James said she would not stand again in the 2015 contest.
Her supporters would meet at B&Q at the weekend and discuss what she needed to do to secure the Labour nomination.
Ms Harris’ deep roots in the community can only have helped her win this prize.
“You can’t get better than the local girl,” she said. “I’ve always said that.”
She entered parliament in a tumultuous time in Labour history but soon found herself on the Home Affairs team with Andy Burnham. She now serves alongside Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.
“Both Andy and Diane have been really supportive, very helpful and become friends,” she said, adding: “Whatever people think of these political giants, there’s a person behind that image.
“And rarely is that person what the image portrays. They are both delightful people.”
She supported Mr Burnham when he ran for the Labour leadership after Ed Miliband’s resignation, and has high affection and praise for Ms Abbott, who is widely seen as one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies.
Ms Harris said: “I think Diane has had to learn to put up a shield. Nobody has ever, ever experienced the levels of personal abuse that Diane Abbott gets. Absolutely horrendous.”
The former Sunday school teacher delights in Commons debates.
“The fact that I can stand up in that chamber and be a voice for people is the proudest thing in the world,” she said.
She admits she can be a “bit passionate” in the Commons, saying: “If the stuff in question is something that I feel passionate about I can’t stop myself being passionate… I haven’t got the finesse of maybe some of the more professional politicians [who] have been in this game for a long, long time.
“I am a working class, break the mould kind of politician.”
There was no way that ructions in the Labour party would stop her serving on the frontbench.
She said: “My role is speak out for my constituents and Labour supporters and the working class people of this country. It’s indulgent not to be prepared [to] do what you think is right.”
Rejecting partisan battles, she said: “[For] Swansea East, for us, it’s about what’s going on locally. I’m very much of the mind that I joined the Labour party, I haven’t joined any other faction…
“So whoever is the leader of the Labour party will have my support because I love the Labour party.”
Concerning Mr Corbyn, she said: “He’s a charming man… I couldn’t say nothing negative about him because he’s a kind man.”
Her priorities include combating human trafficking (“What one human being is prepared to do to another human being is inconceivable”), and pushing for help for women who are not getting the pensions they planned for because of the increase in the state pension age.
A key hope is that more women will find the confidence to make their voices heard and change politics and the country for the better.
She said: “I always say to them you can do such more than what you think you can do.”
As a case study of how a schoolgirl who worked in a shoe shop can become a shadow minister, she has already provided a remarkable set of footprints for others to follow.