Ahead of the next round of applications for our mentoring programme, we hear from former mentee Siobhan Tate on her experience of the scheme.
Standing as a parliamentary candidate, just a year after joining the Labour party, was my way of learning how to campaign effectively for a Labour government. Most of my adult life had been enjoyed secure in the knowledge that, with a Labour government, there was public provision designed to give everyone the opportunities they need to thrive. A year into the coalition government, teaching in a secondary school, I heard my sixth-form students talking despairingly about their prospects. That motivated me to demonstrate that each of us has the potential to affect a better future.
Finding myself in at the deep-end of candidacy, doggy paddling fast, the Fabian Women’s Network Mentoring Programme grounded me. It gave me the knowledge and network I needed to communicate competence, confidence and a sense of purpose – all of which are essential to leading a campaign.
Communicating competence is essential to establishing trust; yet I was lacking in basic knowledge about the role of an MP and how parliament and the Labour party work. The FWN Mentoring Programme took me into the heart of Westminster, Labour headquarters and the European Parliament to meet MPs, Labour party officials and MEPs. Having a shadow cabinet minister and experienced campaigner as a mentor was invaluable. I took a clear sense of direction and purpose away from every meeting.
Communicating confidence helps bring others on board. Finding myself presenting campaign ideas, debating motions and speed-dating senior figures in public life, amongst a group of women with evidently brilliant minds was humbling, challenging and fun. Being immersed in their wealth of knowledge; being able to practice with them, share my vulnerability with them, and ask them for support; all helped me to project confidence.
Communicating purpose and vision is key to influencing the direction of travel. My vision is of a society that makes the opportunities that we all need, to be the best that we can be, available to everyone. The ongoing challenge is understanding how to shape that vision, to achieve a Labour government, and make quality housing, health and social care, education, employment and justice, accessible to everyone. Through the FWN Mentoring Programme I have gained a network with expertise in all these areas, with whom I can look forward to continued learning conversations. With this knowledge-base to draw from, I have the confidence to know I can contribute to shaping and voicing the vision of the Labour party for the future. And if I can, so can you.
Siobhan Tate was parliamentary candidate for Carshalton and Wallington at the 2015 general election. She tweets @siobhan4candw
Applications for places on the fifth cohort of our mentoring programme will open for Fabian members next week. Details will be posted here.