Forum Report

My Journey to the House

CWO – Tuesday 5th December 2017 – My Journey to the House

  • Chair - Cllr. Julie Iles, National Chairman CWO
  • Mims Davies MP

  • Lucy Frazer MP

  • Rachel Maclean MP

  • Rebecca Pow MP

  • Amanda Solloway

Note of forum

  • Julie Iles welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced the panel

  • Not just about female MPs, but across the board with female representation in all sectors

  • Panel has a range of expertise, JI welcomed first speaker, Rebecca Pow MP

Rebecca Pow MP

  • MP for Taunton Deane, lived in the area for 30 years

  • Previously a broadcaster/journalist for years, with 3 children

  • Always been a community ‘doer', involved in the local area, on the Parish Council

  • In summer 2012, the Leader of the local Council approached RP to ask if she had considered running for Parliament

  • Given the age of her children, saw this as her last window

  • Vital that women do not underestimate their talents

  • Becoming a Member of Parliament is a long process

  • RP ‘wasn't on the radar' at the time and didn't get much advice

  • Set her sights on her home town, a challenging, Liberal Democrat area, but applied for a practice seat in Wells where she got an interview

  • Daunting process, the assessment was in front of the entire association

  • At this point RP met the CWO – really helpful, kind and understanding

  • CWO helped with political messaging

  • Second practice seat in Frome and really worked on unique selling point (USP)

  • Honed in her skills and got help with speech writing

  • Had an interview for Taunton Deane (TD) in July 2013, where they decided to hold an open primary – thankfully she was selected

  • At this point, there was no support from CCHQ as TD was not a 40/40 seat

  • Set up her own campaign and ran the seat like a 40.40 (target) seat

  • Good to have a mentor – Sarah Newton MP was RP's mentor, extremely supportive

  • Winter 2014 a secret poll revealed that RP's recognition was good and the seat was moved into the 40/40 category, which meant more help from CCHQ

  • CWO sent a team down to campaign and Women 2 Win helped to raise money

  • Won the GE 2015, with a swing to the Conservatives giving her a majority of just under 15,500, 2nd biggest swing in the country

  • Got into Parliament and it was a baptism of fire, but also very exciting to be a member of the Governing party

  • Given a number when you enter Parliament – RP is 379th female MP ever elected, shocking

  • Some observations: more women need to come forward. Get involved wherever possible in public life/apppointments, be it the local council/school governor

  • Ask yourself why you want to do it

  • For RP, it was to represent TD and to work on environmental issues (she is now PPS at DEFRA)

  • As a politician, you stand a chance at making a difference – huge leaps in DEFRA, i.e. banning microbeads

  • When making policy, women can bring different things to the table

  • MPs are better as a team when there is more balance

  • Take advantage of the CWO and all the training it can offer. The nation will benefit

Lucy Frazer MP

  • Selected without a practice seat and won with a majority of nearly 17,000

  • Background as a barrister and became a young QC

  • Recently appointed PPS to the Lord Chancellor

  • Didn't set out in life to become a MP

  • Had a gap year after university and worked at the UN

  • Always wanted to make a difference, so became a barrister

  • Wanted to get involved and so looked for/sought out public appointments

  • Didn't want the publicity of becoming a MP, but saw it as the only way to do what she wanted

  • Looked on the internet and found the CWO – went to ALL the courses

  • CWO helped her to build confidence in the new venture, she met some people who became friends

  • When preparing for PAB, she found 4 people to practice with once a week

  • Found the PAB quite fun and, thankfully, passed

  • Head of candidates asked which practice seat she would apply for, but LF said she wanted to go straight for a safe seat

  • Lucky with SE Cambridgeshire – vibrant area

  • They say your constituency finds you

  • No help from CCHQ – safe seat, predecessor there for 20 years

  • Took majority from 5,000 to nearly 17,000

  • Knew nothing at the start of the campaign, there was no association, no building, no members, no Chair – LF built that all up

  • When asked how does it compare… Even better than anticipated

  • As a MP you have a real ability to get things done

  • On a negative note: note family friendly. LF's children currently aged 12 and 9, but meant when they were younger she would never see them in the evenings, tries to most mornings

  • It was long hours as a barrister, but time was your own. Now, there is no control over time

  • In 2015, LF's Grandma was ill in Leeds and only had a short while to live. Asked Whips if could go to the funeral, but Whips couldn't promise

  • Need more women in public appointments (BBC/NHS)

  • A woman once gave LF some advice: 1. Apply 2. Apply 3. Apply

  • You need to put your name down to even begin

  • Q: Any advice on campaign strategy?

  • A from LF: Best thing is to start with a survey – ask what residents care about, get a voting intention and if they want to get involved. This gets your name out there, gives you an idea of numbers and gets you a group of volunteers. When campaigning, always focus on people who will get out to vote, not those that aren't registered

Rachel Maclean MP

  • Stood unsuccessfully in 2015

  • Previously Chair of West-Midlands CWO

  • Never expected to become a MP and was never interested in politics until 9 years ago when her daughter (14 at the time) said she might like to study politics at uni

  • RM took her daughter down to the local Conservative Association

  • A local cllr asked if she would like to stand for the Council

  • Thought about it and realised she was very interested in a lot of national issues, in particular business and social mobility, so went online and found CWO

  • Went on as many courses at CWO and W2W as possible

  • You MUST apply, to begin anything

  • RM set her heart on her home seat, but made a mess of it and it was heart-broken when they chose a man from London

  • Important to be resilient

  • When she didn't win in 2015, she almost gave up, believing she was too old and should move on, go back to work

  • Then the GE 2017 was called and RM knew she would like to apply

  • Always grab the opportunity, even if you thought it wasn't supposed to happen – RM found out about Redditch when she got a call from a woman in the Association whose mum RM had helped years before

  • You can never see how it will turn out for you

  • Advice: 1. Be resilient 2. It could work somewhere you don't think off 3. Be YOU with more, you don't have to be like other MPs

  • Get involved, wherever that may be. CWO is focused in London, but if you can, get on a train or build up a branch in your area

  • Q: Your home seat where you wanted to stand was Birmingham Northfield. Did they elect a Tory? A: No. See, things happen for a reason!

Mims Davies MP

  • Eastleigh never looked like a winner and now has a majority of around 14,000

  • CWO got MD to this place

  • She is the accidental politician

  • APPLY – rule yourself in. If you're on the ballot, there's always a chance

  • Dealing with no infrastructure is difficult

  • In the past, MD had been involved in local campaigns and joined a parish council

  • Had met lots of MPs through work as a radio presenter and realised they weren't anything special

  • MD first started in Mid-Sussex: difficult issues which was a great way to learn

  • Found that politics works very well around children – MD campaigned with buggies, children. Was also able to work it around caring for both her parents

  • CWO came to rescue, offering training and support

  • Through her work in politics, MD got used to being the woman in the room

  • She was encouraged by her Chair to apply – she had the forms in 2008, but didn't fill them in until 2011

  • MD has always found really supportive men in the Party. They like a feisty lady!

  • MD applied for Eastleigh because no-one else wanted to

  • Got there and it was a disaster. No computer, no MERLIN, no literature, so set up everything herself

  • In January/February before the 2015 election, started to feel better about the seat

  • People came down to help – figured if you fed people, they came back. One campaign day, she had 90 people out

  • No-one expected the Conservatives to win in Eastleigh - turns out the votes were there, just needed to find them

  • Canvassing is absolutely key

  • MD had no idea what being a MP entailed – Party needs to be better at that

  • The job is good for a family – where else can you earn £70,000 a year and have school holidays off?

  • Takes her children everywhere with her – they are excellent helpers

  • Being a MP allows you to take your passions and run with them

  • Despite what it looks like from the outside, Parliament is very collegiate – there is a lot of cross-Party work

  • MD is now a PPS at DCLG and Chair of the APPG for Women in Parliament

  • Advice: Apply, enjoy and if it takes you to the green benches, you damn well deserve it!

Amanda Solloway

  • Elected in 2015 with a tiny majority

  • Despite everything since, losing in 2017, it was all worth it

  • Never had the confidence to believe she could be a MP

  • From the age of 7, it was her dream. She has no degree, but decided at the age of nearly 50 that she had to go for it – children were all grown up and she had nothing to lose

  • Googled and found W2W – e-mailed Theresa May and got a reply

  • Advice: 1. Contact your local CWO 2. Contact your local MP 3. Stand for council

  • AS got involved – took the PAB but was rejected – decided she had to go on or give up, but really wanted it, so got more involved in CWO to increase political footprint

  • She was told to come back after 2015, but asked to be seen again and, thankfully, was

  • Selected for Derby North and won with a majority of 41 (after 3 recounts)

  • Great sadness that she was only there for 2 years, but she wants to come back

  • It was a fantastic experience, you can make a difference

  • You MUST have the confidence to believe you can do it – that's the greatest gift we can give everyone, the confidence to do something

Q&A session

  • Q: advice for PAB.

  • A: RM – go to CWO/W2W mock PAB sessions. Practice was harder than the real thing, so this can help. Get up to date with current affairs/learn topical stuff. Get informed. Hard work in your local area is never wasted. Show grassroots experience and demonstrate grit and resilience. It is supposed to be challenging, but you don't have to be perfect.

  • A: AS – you can put it off, but don't. People are generous in their help.

  • A: MD – Find a mentor to help with PAB, Paul Scully did that for her. Nicholas Soames said a seat is a seat. On the personal side, she was married and had a supportive husband, but no more. The split was not due to the job, but the job will find the faults. Anyone can do this, single/with children/married. Everything can help, but if things change, you are very well supported in Parliament. Be honest about your personal life. In your PAB, be authentic – the job is hard enough without pretending to be someone else or fit in a box.

  • Q: How to manage the money/cost of a campaign, giving up your job and what about the support of a partner?

  • JI – target seats are difficult to juggle with a job. Elections do cost a lot, but money shouldn't be a barrier. There are ways to raise it and help available.

  • Q: Vitriol and abuse, how to protect yourself and your family (Momentum)?

  • A: RM – it is going to exist, in person and on social media, but don't look. Otherwise it is a slippery slope. Get someone else to help. It's a managed process, Momentum is great online, they will twist what you say out of context and there will be constant attacks. Physical abuse, lots of help and protection as a MP. You can be available to the public, just follow the procedures in place. It comes with the territory, so you have to be prepared to defend it.

  • A: MD – recently ramped up massively. Conservatives have been governing and getting on with it and Momentum has been campaigning. As Chair of APPG for Women in Parliament, has been calling out this abuse on women. She doesn't even check FB. People will jump in and defend you, but be prepared to call it out. MD always has a male with her at surgery appointments and does phone surgeries. To be a Tory at the moment is not a comfortable place. MD will not put pictures of her children on social media. Do it your own way. Doesn't have to be a war on every front. Be sensible.


  • JI thanked everyone for attending


  • Meeting closed

For further information about the CWO, or to arrange an interview with anyone named in this release, please contact:

CWO Chairman
Tel: (020) 7984 8139