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Fabian Women’s Parliamentary Day

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Fabian Women’s Network held a training day recently for women who are considering standing for election and Meg was invited to say a few words her contribution follows.

Do you want to be a Paralympian or a character in the Thick of It?

This last week we’ve seen both and they couldn’t be more different.

Paralympians understand that achievement is gained by patient hard work, training and practice. In their world there are no short cuts. They know they are not perfect, in fact the world has probably told them this time and time again. For many of them the daily tasks of life are difficult and sometimes impossible without the assistance of others.

In contrast the politicians in the Thick of It come to grief every week as they are found out for not thinking through the issues, not working collaboratively and being dazzled by the latest good idea.

In real life we’ve all seen many politicians fall on their face and careers cut short. But probably even more damaging to our trade are the politicians who don’t do the hard work, who think that there are easy answers and short cuts to our country’s and world’s problems. The next eye catching policy idea, or even worse the supposed next Big Idea, is based not on a thorough analysis of the problem and search for solutions but on a few brain storming sessions.

There are real stars of the political world who do the hard work building steadily, working on the issues that are important to them not necessarily the idea that is the most popular or eye catching or of the moment. The public are very good at spotting authenticity and when they don’t there is always the media to research what a politician has said and done in the past.

It’s tempting as an up and coming politician to say yes to everything that comes along. It takes focus and determination to know what will be good for you and what to refuse. Being harangued by Jeremy Paxman may seem to be just a rite of passage for new MPs, but a bad performance will be noted so don’t say yes to the hard stuff and be flattered by being asked, and thinking you have arrived, unless you really do know your stuff.

And what goes for the media goes for other things too nice to be asked to take on a role but is it in your interest to do so, are you ready, is it helping you to build your skills and knowledge or is it asking you to run before you can walk. This is not about being under confident but a realistic assessment of your capability. You need good friends to be honest and tell you the truth.

The Paralympian knows above all else that there is only one way to judge them and this is by what they achieve, not just the medals and the world records, important though they are, but by achieving more than they ever thought possible. They are no longer an imperfect human being with a disability, but an individual champion. As each athlete received their medal we focused not on the part of their body that is disabled, but on their face the smiles, the tears of joy and the expression of emotion as one after each other they told us how this was one of the most amazing days of their lives.

So what has all this to do with today?

You all already have decided to do more to become effective women. Today is an opportunity for you to do more of the long hard painstaking work that will lead you to being successful. It’s not about being a star or catching the eye of some important person; it’s about learning from everyone you see today. Real lasting success, not just for you but for the things you care about and the changes you want to make, comes when you know what you can do, and know how to achieve it.

You all have your strong points and your weak points. Don’t try to be someone you are not, but work on your weak points, especially when they are key to what you want to achieve. Some of us are born with the ability to make good speeches, but don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not a skill that can be learnt. Sitting here today you may have no clue about how to go about running a campaign, learn from others who do.

Have role models who inspire you. But don’t just gaze in wonder, ask yourself what it is they do and how? But be authentic I’m a witty person (I think), humour is very important to me but I can’t tell jokes like some of my colleagues can, so I find ways to let my personality come through in my speeches.

Above all don’t underestimate what top class politicians do it’s not magic, but it is complex. It takes time and dedication and hard work. If that hasn’t been done it will be found out. Either quickly through the type of jokes and humour that we find on the Thick of It David Cameron’s Big Society was never going to stand the test. And the spotlight in today’s world with the constant media attention soon shows the true nature of those at the top.

But if you use every opportunity and work hard and surround yourself with the help and support of true friends, then you will surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

And why do I know this because last week I saw a small woman break swimming records in a sport that tells you that the taller you are the faster you go, and a man with one leg fly like the wind.

For details of the Fabian Women’s Network visit: http://www.fabianwomen.co.uk/

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