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Steps towards a House of Diversity

A perfect setting for our autumnal masterclass – this month’s event saw Creative Access interns and alumni gathered in the Palace of Westminster to speak to a cross-party group of MPs and Lords on all things politics and diversity.

Hosted by Baroness Margaret McDonagh, former Leader of the House of Commons, the panel gave us a valuable insight into how they got to where they are today, the best and worst parts of working in politics and their advice on how to pursue your dream career.

First in line was Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn. Having been brought up by two feminists in a predominantly Jewish community, she has strived to maintain true to her career goals despite people told to follow different areas of politics outside of her interests.

‘It’s the values you believe in, whether it’s social justice, fairness that makes you join a political party’

She found it difficult working in the cultural and arts sector due to cuts from national budgets. Compared to when she started out as a Researcher in politics, Tulip can now say that parliament looks ‘a lot different’ however, ‘it’s not a change that’s happened quickly’.

In pursuing her new role, Tulip gives us an insight into the most difficult parts of running against her fellow Labour members…

‘When I stood forward I needed to get the confidence of the Labour members. The selection process is harder than the election process, standing against your own friends is harder.’

On the subject of women in politics, Tulip believes that ‘as women, we don’t stand until someone asks us to stand. We need that little push.’ In the future, she hopes those female politicians will stand without needing that push.

Next up, was Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham and former Shadow Business Secretary (2011 to 2015). He empowered our interns to feel confident in their diversity…

‘If we dismiss the progress we have made, I think it can stunt further progress. See your diversity as a huge strength and massive advantage, and draw confidence from it. You have a huge advantage because you stand out.’

Nusrat Ghani, the Conservative MP for Wealden and Parliamentary and Under-Secretary at the Department of Transport gave us some of her career top tips…

‘When I had an opportunity, I ran with it. Know where your career can go. Conviction and ambition are things that can help you. Be confident and have good mentors.’

On working in politics, Nusrat highlights the importance of staying true to yourself and your beliefs whilst working with her opponents; ‘be mindful of who you are prepared to work with and open yourself to different people’. To ground her in her work, Nusrat is fierce in who she is and ambitious for her country.

At question time, the panel gave us their key tips on reaching your career goals and spoke about how they overcame their personal and external barriers to delving into the world of politics. On the subject of mental health, our current intern at The Pipeline Naomi Ademosu asked our panel a valuable question on their advice for maintaining a balance whilst working in politics…

  • Tulip‘You must do what you think is right. You can’t be a woman in politics without a support network; it’s not just your family, it’s friends. The Labour women’s network has helped me a lot’.
  • Chuka – ‘Choose your battles, there are lots of mental health issues in the role and I have a healthy life outside of this place to anchor and support me. If you’re not happy in the rest of your life you cannot do this job. It is very easy for you to have your life as just politics.’

Our current intern William Singh, who is working at ITV Peston, asked about the influence of media on politics. Chuka responded that ‘the media is not your friends like other people are your friends. They are chasing after the story.’ He gave us an interesting perspective on our media can influence politics in the long-term, ‘With social media history, we’re going to have difficulty getting normal people as politicians.’

It was particularly interesting to hear the panel’s opinions on diversity in politics….

  • Tulip felt ‘pigeon-holed’ by the media when it came to her work in politics. ‘There is a lot of scrutiny in politics for ethnic minority people, papers and local papers would come to me about ethnic issues. I don’t want to just talk about Muslim issues.’
  • Chuka‘If you do something well and you illustrate excellence, people will notice it more because there isn’t someone else who looks like you in the room.’
  • Nusrat – ‘I never thought my gender, heritage or race would be a barrier.’ 

Our final speaker was former Creative Access intern Jaber Mohamed. He described his route from trainee on the Daily Mail newspaper, to his current role as Chief and Media Campaigns Officer at the Department of Health and Social Care. Having been requested to work undercover in his Daily Mail internship, Jaber realised maybe this wasn’t the right career path for him and left journalism to pursue a role that he felt gave him ‘more meaning and value’. It is true that every opportunity is a learning experience and from this internship, Jaber is more informed on which roles best work with his strengths and his interests.

It was great to have the opportunity to see where all the magic happens, and a massive thanks for Baroness Margaret McDonagh for hosting the event, along with our inspiring guest speakers for attending and imparting their much-valued wisdom!

  • Baroness Margaret McDonagh
  • Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn
  • Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham
  • Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Transport
  • Jaber Mohammed, former Creative Access Intern, now Chief Media & Campaigns Officer at the Department of Health and Social Care