‘Fire in your belly’: Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party gives talk to pupils about the need for more women in politics | Framlingham College

When Mr Salisbury sent over an email to say he was putting together a talk on women in politics, I expected a round-table discussion about female political role models. But, as is commonplace at Framlingham College, I was caught by surprise with the quality and esteem of the occasion. As I logged in via Teams, I instantly saw the face as the deputy leader of Britain’s third largest political party, the Liberal Democrats. As it turns out, MP Daisy Cooper is an Old Framlinghamiam, having studied English, Maths and Music for A Level at Sixth Form here before going on to forge a hugely successful career in politics.

Unsurprisingly, attendance from pupils for this optional virtual seminar was impressive and Ms Cooper wasted no time in doing what good politicians do best – speaking her mind. “Politics affects everything.” She said. “I always find it fascinating when people say politics isn’t really for them. Sometimes people think that politics is this big scary complicated issue that is for other people to do.

“Politics will affect every single aspect of your life. So even if you are not that interested in politics right now, at some point remember that if there is something that you really care about and you get that fire in your belly, it’s because of politics. Remember you can always get involved in politics, no matter what stage of life you are in.”

Ms Cooper’s own political career was born out of a desire to make a positive difference in the world, and she cited her own mum as her greatest role model. “She would always tell me to challenge people and challenge my teachers,” she said, presumably to the delight of pupils and chagrin of teachers. It’s difficult to read a room when that room is your kitchen with a laptop on a table.

After studying Law at Leeds University before taking International Law for her Masters at Nottingham, Ms Cooper went on to work in International Affairs for a decade to campaign for human rights. She then became interested in domestic politics and began working with a campaign group to fight press intrusion before joining the Liberal Democrats and later becoming the MP for St Albans in Hertfordshire.

While Ms Cooper has taken an indirect route into UK politics, she is adamant that a varied career is crucial. She added: “I think it’s really important that you get some life experience before you go into politics. One of the biggest problems we’ve had over the past few years is that a lot of people have done some work experience for MPs and then they become researchers for MPs and then they become MPs. This doesn’t really give much life experience and the challenges you get working with other people help you understand others.”

It is still sadly a fact that the UK lags a long way behind other western nations when it comes to gender representation in politics. Ms Cooper said: “What I’ve realised is that it’s so important to have women involved in politics. Because even though men can talk about issues that affect women, the fact is women have a very different perspective and very different experiences of things.

“For example it’s only in the last few years that issues like upskirting, eating disorders and airbrushing has been discussed in parliament. One issue I am very involved in is tax on sustainable period pants. I can’t imagine these issues would ever have been raised if there weren’t women in the chamber.

“Of course, we’re not only interested in women’s issues. I’m really interested in pubs and hospitality, in performers rights to travel. There are all sorts of issues that you can be involved in. But there are certain issues which only really affect women and girls and it often takes women to be there to influence them.”

At the end of the Friday afternoon session, Ms Cooper generously took time away from her overspilling constituent inbox, to answer questions from pupils and teachers who wanted to know about the challenges she had experienced in her career as a woman in politics as well as how the world would be different if women were better represented in parliament. Ms Cooper was clear in her answers that while she did not experience too much online abuse from social media trolls, she recognised she was one of the more fortunate ones. She also said that greater representation from women in politics would bring greater fairness for the whole of society.

After 30 inspiring minutes in which pupils were also able to speak out to an engaged and virtual audience about their own opinions of the importance of women in politics, Ms Cooper answered pupils’ questions on role models with a final poignant sentiment: “The role models I always have are the people who have real courage in calling out injustice. I think there can be a real problem when people don’t have the courage to call things out when they see it’s unfair.

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