Sunday, 30 June 2013

Women in politics, and Women2Win

Many Monday evenings a month I, and other mentors / MPs and advisers, teach aspiring female politicians the art of interview, presentation and the "rules" of the political game. This initiative inside the Conservative party is called Women to Win, and is one of the things I am most proud of doing these last few years. The women are all brilliant, passionately committed to their country and would be ideal MPs. They come from all backgrounds, ethnic origins, and all parts of the UK. Their list of accomplishments before getting involved in political life always staggers me - albeit it is hard to get them to sell their past achievements. There is a particular skill to creating a cv, conducting a 15 question political interview, and fundamental need to practice. No one knows everything there is to know about the options on Syria, the care reforms, the new rules on welfare and the complexities of local education provision and the academy reforms. Such things genuinely need discussion, study and practice if you want to get involved. This is what we do most monday nights, from 6.30-9. That is not bigging up present MPs - but we do spend a lot of time actually getting our heads round the policies we debate, decide and shape. You will not effect change without understanding the levers of government, the funding, and specifics of government action / policies and the usual government law of unintended consequences. Then you need to understand how this impacts on your local community, which is where being a local MP, councillor or candidate kicks in. I find the process fascinating.

For my part I am absolutely committed to getting more women involved in politics, whether it is local or national. Almost without exception they are brilliant. The 2010 crop of female MPs are stuffed full of outstanding women - some of whom I hope will be promoted in the summer reshuffle.
Liz Truss, and Liverpool's Esther McVey have led the way and I would expect other female MPs in the 2010 intake to be promoted. If this encourages the future stars, who I am helping to train, then so much the better. It is clear that there is no glass ceiling anymore.
But the recent demise of Julia Gillard, the first Australian PM has upset me. I am absolutely convinced that the way she was treated would discourage others from getting involved. Politics is a roughish game and you are often criticised unfairly, in circumstances when I have not met any politician who did not get involved for any other reason than because they fundamentally wanted to serve their community. That applies across the political board. I have labour and liberal colleagues I admire hugely, albeit I disagree with their political views. But the questioning of her sexuality, figure and campaigns entitled "ditch the witch" bring shame on Australia. President Obama wrote in his first book that he always knew there would be plenty of elbows in the ribs as he journeyed up the political ladder, and it is true you have to acquire a thickish skin to rise above the criticisms and slanted approach. But I remain utterly convinced that British politics will be massively improved with greater female representation and will do all I can to help these amazing women on the way. That is why tomorrow night between 6.30-9 I shall be skipping dinner to help these wonderful women on their way.