This Parliamentary Life

How is it that some politicians emerge in a blaze of glory and then fade away very quickly, whilst others emerge more slowly but appear to have real staying power?

It is certainly funny how even in a relatively long parliamentary life (compared to the much shorter shelf life of people in sport for example) that you go from being regarded as Young Turk to being something of an Old Stager in virtually no time! But I suppose the charm of politics is in its uncertainty and you never quite know what is round the corner.

Understanding the essence of political life here in the House of Commons remains a mystery for most folk who watch from the outside? One of the things that most people find difficult to understand is the way in which you can work well together, particularly with politicians of other parties. Prime Minister’s Questions and its adversarial approach is the exception, not the rule ? many politicians of different parties do get on! There will never be quite the same level of potential closeness (or for that matter animosity) as you will have with colleagues within your own Party, but in my three years as a local MP I have much enjoyed team work with Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs in neighbouring constituencies as we sought to do the right thing on behalf of all of our constituents.

Working with neighbouring MPs for example, we have been able to make some important changes to the Licensing Act before it became law (and the Government is still under pressure from MPs from all parties to tinker with this legislation before it comes into force in November). We have also been able to ensure understanding from the Department of Health as to the importance of proper funding for mental health provision here in Central London in view of the burden of rough sleepers being moved from our streets. None of this could have been achieved without the teamwork between parliamentarians. Likewise one of the pleasures of Parliamentary life is the banter, gossip and comradeship we have in the Tea Rooms and on overseas trips.

Yet, politics also requires you at times to be your own man (or woman). You need to work hard on your own campaigns in the constituency and constantly have a highly tuned sense of self-criticism of your own performance. That part of political life can be lonely but ultimately it has the potential to be very fulfilling. I believe it is crucially important to accentuate the positive in dealings with your colleagues (and that comes from a former Whip!).

Politics is ultimately a people business and people (and I fear that includes me) can be infuriating at the best of times! However, it is important to keep that sense of perspective and try to understand that whilst there are a few MPs (as in every other walk of life) who are in it for themselves, most people in politics do have a more benevolent outlook.

I have concluded that the four main assets of political success, or at least for the process of entering Parliament and making your name in the early years (the only part of the process with which I can speak with any great authority) is the mix of determination, persistence, patience and luck.

The last attribute can never be entirely discounted or underestimated ? many potentially great political, sporting and musical careers have been snuffed out before taking off simply through ill-fortune or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. By the same token it is often observed that the more determination, persistence and hard work you put in, the more likely that good fortune will be on your side.