What are the six key attributes we look for in our Parliamentarians? In this article, I will delve a little deeper.
A politician who tells the public “You don’t understand” is really saying “I can’t explain”, as I once told a senior EU panjandrum. You need to be able to make clear points in broadcast interviews as well as at public meetings. Often you have to deliver a speech at the drop of a hat, so it is important to practise creating a three minute speech from scratch with just five minutes of preparation – on any subject.
Clear written communication is also very important as you will have to draft letters to constituents, press statements and if you are lucky you might be asked to write a column for your local newspaper.
You will need to be comfortable with complex material including budgets and academic reports. This needs to extend beyond just understanding these things to being able to question them forensically. Scrutiny work on select committees is an important component of an MPs role and Ministers who don’t question their officials are no more use than an (expensive) empty chair.
It is important to understand the difference between intelligence and education. Possession of a good degree is helpful but not essential. Far more important is an understanding of critical thinking and causation.
You also need to be enthusiastic about learning new things. Once at Westminster, Number 10 could offer you a ministerial post but this may not be in a field you are familiar with. Experience of constantly learning and adapting is useful. Most people are uncomfortable with change but MPs can’t afford to be hidebound.
ABILITY TO RELATE TO PEOPLE
As an MP, you will meet senior business figures and leaders of other countries but you will also deal with ordinary constituents every day and you have to empathise with their difficulties. Far too often people regard their politicians as out of touch or ‘not interested in my problems’ and the recent antics in Westminster haven’t helped.
Experience of voluntary work is a good way to demonstrate that you are comfortable with people from all backgrounds, rich and poor, friendly and hostile.
During the campaign you will have to lead and motivate a team of political activists. This is probably the loneliest part of the job as the candidate is often the worst person to ask to predict an election result. It’s just human nature to take the last dozen people you spoke to and extrapolate the result from them – which means you can have some pretty depressing days. Nevertheless you need to be able to put on a brave face and coax your campaigners out for the next day’s door knocking.
You may be seen as a great leader at work, oozing charisma, but in politics it often comes down to leading by example. In essence you shouldn’t expect your campaigners to do anything that you aren’t prepared to do yourself.
In politics there are far more lows than highs – but the highs are worth it. Most politicians lose an election before they can find a winnable seat and there are a lot of rejections along the road. Once at Westminster there will be many reshuffles but most of them won’t see your unique skills recognised.
So you need to be able to bounce back swiftly from disappointment and defeat. It’s worth considering times when you changed career or had to recover from a setback. Why did it happen? How did you find your way back? What did you learn from the experience?
A degree of maturity and self awareness is essential.
Political parties are a broad church but even the broadest churches have walls – and outside is the graveyard.
The question ‘Why are you a Conservative?’ is one you need to be able to answer with insight and enthusiasm. It’s not a politics exam either – we want to know why you hold these values and how they are reflected in your political brand.
Also remember that politics goes through changes. In the 80s we had ideological politics but Major, Blair and Cameron presided over a long period of managerialism. That effectively ended in 2015 with Corbyn and Brexit heralding a new age of ideological politics. The ground is shifting so you need to know where you stand.
Demonstrating these essential attributes is vital for application CVs and interviews. The good news is that the Tory Candidates Network can help you, so contact us today to find out how.