This week, The Speaker talked exclusively to Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch. Here’s what she had to say on Public Services, Select Committees and Aspiring Politicians.
How did you first become interested in politics?
Like many of my fellow MPs, I became interested in politics because it’s a vehicle to improve people’s lives and to make real and lasting change in our country. Now, that sounds easy to say and I’m sure many people would expect me to say that, but I truly believe it. I would not be in politics if I didn’t believe improving people’s lives could be achieved. And one of the best ways of improving people’s lives is through education and making sure everyone has access to a fantastic school. This is something I am absolutely passionate about and one of the main reasons I first became interested in politics.
What does an average week as an MP look like?
As they say a week is a long time in politics and that couldn’t be more true. Every single week is different and you never know what may happen. But, I would say my average week is full of meetings, parliamentary debates and constituency visits. One of the most important jobs of an MP is to raise issues in Parliament on behalf of constituents. My constituents contact me on a whole host of issues and I will always do what I can to help. When Parliament is in session I’m usually in Westminster Monday to Thursday where you’ll find me attending parliamentary debates, voting through new laws and attending meetings with Government Ministers to raise my constituent’s issues. On Friday’s I return to Redditch, to visit schools, community groups and businesses, as well as holding my regular surgeries.
How does working on a committee differ to constituency work as an MP?
In many ways working on a select committee and the work I do as a constituency MP are not too dissimilar. Both involve understanding and listening to issues and holding Government departments, agencies, public organisations and businesses to account. As I’ve said, one of the most important roles of any MP is to raise issues on behalf of constituents and this quite often involves contacting Government departments, public sector bodies and even businesses to get them to address the issues my constituents have raised. This is not too different to the work I did when I was on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. A lot of my work on this committee involved scrutinising legislation, listening to arguments for and against new laws and holding Government Ministers, public sector bodies and business leaders to account.
How can we encourage more young people to want to work in public services?
We need to show young people the benefits and the positive contribution they can make by working in public services, whether that be in the police force, as a firefighter, doctor, paramedic, council officer or even a civil servant. There are plenty of opportunities out there to work in public services, we just need to do more to point young people in the right direction. I know a lot of public services run campaigns to encourage people of all ages to join them, but perhaps we should consider targeted campaigns at young people to show them what a difference they can make to people’s lives by working in public services.
You have particularly been fighting for the Alexandra Hospital. What do you find are the best methods to get members of the public involved in such campaigns?
As you quite rightly point out, I have been fighting for the Alex Hospital since I was first elected last June. The hospital is the number one concern for my constituents and so I spend a lot of my time lobbying Health Ministers and holding my local NHS Acute Trust to account. One of the best methods I found to engage residents in my campaign was by launching a Parliamentary Petition. This was a brilliant way of demonstrating public support and a brilliant way of involving more residents in politics and the decision-making process. MPs should always seek to directly involve residents in their campaigns as much as possible, after all, if you can’t get the public’s support, then what is the point in any campaign.
What is the most interesting part of being a member of a select committee?
For me, the most interesting part about my time on a select committee was the amount of cross-party work that goes on. Of course, most people only see the Punch & Judy politics of the House of Commons, but away from the Chamber MPs from all parties work together to scrutinise legislation and to improve it. A lot of this work is carried in select committees which are made up of Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, SNP & Green MPs. It’s a shame most people don’t get to see this cross-party work in action, and I believe people would look at politics more positively if they saw this bipartisan work and less of the theatrics in the House of Commons.
Do you think it is a good idea to allow the public to sit in on certain committee meetings?
Of course, Parliament and politics in general should always be as transparent as possible. I have always been a big believer of the fact that the more you involve people in politics, the better politics will be. It is important select committees continue to be open to the public so more people can better understand the Parliamentary process. With the wonders of modern technology, Parliament is more accessible than ever with people able to livestream select committee meetings and debates in the House of Commons on their laptops and smartphones.
We saw that you recently visited a local brownie group, do you think being active locally inspires more young people to get involved in politics?
I’d like to think so. One of the main reasons I love visiting groups, such as the local Brownies, is to inspire more young people to get involved in politics. When I was first elected I made a promise to visit every school in my constituency – a promise I have nearly achieved. It is vital young people get to meet their MP, to find out more about what the job involves, and to encourage them to get more active in politics. That doesn’t mean you must join a political party or attend a rally or demonstration, it just means being aware of what is going on in the world around you, and most importantly, voting!
How can we ensure there continues to be more female politicians?
You’ve raised an extremely important point. Although we have more women MPs in Parliament than ever before, and our country is being led by a female Prime Minister for a second time, we still have so much more work to do to encourage more women, and people from minority groups, to get involved in politics. I’m a big supporter of the 50:50 Parliament campaign – the aim of which is to see the House of Commons equally representing men and women. 50% of our country’s population is male, the other 50% is female, so it makes sense that our Parliament reflects that. Unfortunately, though it doesn’t and Parliament is still dominated by men. There are a great number of initiatives, led by all political parties, to encourage more women and people from minority backgrounds to become politicians. My party, for example, set-up the Women2Win group – an initiative to increase the number of female Conservative MPs which was co-founded by Prime Minister Theresa May. Groups like these encourage me to become an MP and now I’m in Parliament I will be doing everything I can to encourage more women to enter politics.
If you could give one piece of advice for an aspiring politician, what would it be?
Always be yourself and stand by what you believe in. You will easily get caught out in politics if you try to be something or someone you’re not, and voters quite rightly will see through that too. Voters are crying out for politicians to be genuine so the best person you can be is and always will be yourself. And stand by what you believe in. Your opinion or stance on an issue may not always be popular, but voters will always respect you for standing by your convictions. Of course, politicians don’t always get everything right, therefore it’s okay to admit you made a mistake, but never apologise for being passionate about what you believe in.
Thank-you to Rachel for taking the time to answer our questions.