Years ago, I applied for and got a job at a local magazine selling and creating advertising.
Three guesses which one?! That’s why I am so chuffed to have been asked to write this column.
Now I work in politics, proving that anyone can (and should) stand for local or national government.
November 21st was Ask Her to Stand Day. This annual event marks the passing of the years since women won the right to vote and has become an important prompt to remind us that, 104 years on from that day, women still only make up 35 per cent of MPs and 41 per cent of councillors*.
Why is that? We know that women still carry much of the load of childcare and domestic responsibilities. Various high-profile news stories out of Westminster tell us it’s still a male-dominated arena – and not for us.
I think it’s more than that. I think that ‘people like me’ tell themselves it’s not for them. I think it’s something you grow up with – politics is for ‘other people’. People more educated. People with more money. People of a different class – whatever that means these days.
It’s rubbish. I stood because I was on benefits following the death of my daughter from leukaemia.
Our landlord had sold our house and the council had no house to give us.
I stood because I wanted to change that. I knew too many local people priced out of the area, but I knew nothing about councils or government or politics at all really. I just wanted to do something. I just wanted change. I had brilliant support from my party (and colleagues from other parties will tell you the same) and I got elected.
That was in 2015. Since then, I’ve been part of Purbeck District Council and now Dorset Council. I’ve sat in sooo many meetings and read sooo many reports, but I’ve also worked hard to make the council more easily accessible.
I’ve helped people with housing, benefits, roads, and social care.
I’ve been to conferences and I’ve trained as a bin loader.
I’ve joined a foraging walk on Portland and spoken in Westminster.
I’ve litter picked and been on telly arguing with PETA about Wool and whether we could rename the village Vegan Wool (yes, really!).
And anyone can do it. YOU could do it. Pick your party and get involved.
Yes, you have to learn pretty blooming quickly. Yes, it takes over your life (if you do it properly!) and yes, it’s demanding work. People forget there’s a person behind the job sometimes and can be angry.
Delivering leaflets in the rain is … fun. You will have a favourite spatula (if you know, you know…). Your family will become very tolerant of your constant explanations of how council tax is spent. You’ll be tired, elated, frustrated, and privileged to represent where you live.
Is it worth it? Yes. Every single day.
* Women in Politics and Public Life – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk).
Conservative councillor and cabinet member at Dorset Council