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среда, 22 марта 2017 г.

Meet the most important women in politics - and no it's not the wives!

Current party politics may be a man’s game, but behind the scenes, women rule. Here we meet ladies from the three main parties who are pulling the strings

'I tell David Cameron what to say'
Clare Foges, 28, is a speech-writer for the Conservative Party. She lives in west London and is currently single.
Clare has learnt how to speak Cameron

That was in August 2008, and Barack had come to meet my boss, David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.
"As soon as American presidential candidate Barack Obama stepped into our office, the atmosphere was electric. I was so excited to be meeting the man poised to change the world.
I'm David's speech-writer, which means I help write the words he says.
Back in the days when I had a part-time job in an ice-cream van, I never dreamed I'd end up writing speeches for the opposition leader to use in his bid to win one of the UK's most hotly-contested elections.
I first became more interested in politics in my early 20s - my mum's a foster carer and I used to think about what happened to the children when they left care, and how the state works in terms of welfare. Many of my views were closely allied to how the Conservatives think, so after I finished studying English at Southampton University, I joined the party.
I worked in advertising before getting a job as a researcher for MP John Hayes. I did a bit of everything, from answering phones to organising meetings and some speech-writing.
I really enjoyed putting John's messages across in an effective way. So when a friend told me about the speech-writing job for David Cameron and suggested I apply, I jumped at it.
After submitting my CV and examples of my writing, I had to go through four interviews. I was delighted when I got the job.
Before I started, I wondered if it would be scary, with people stomping around and shouting. But it's friendly and buzzy, nothing like the TV satire The Thick Of It.

With boss David Cameron
David's really straightforward and clear about what he wants from his speeches. And he's funny, too. That's good news for me - it means I don't have to come up with all the gags myself! I love hearing the House Of Commons cracking up as part of a debate, and a career highlight was when he used one of my jokes in one of his speeches.
I've picked up on how David talks just through listening to him. I find it quite easy to get his tone. One of my friends even jokily introduces me as 'David Cameron's larynx'.
Because what David says is under so much scrutiny, I'm under lots of pressure to get it right. I need to know subjects inside out. There's a range of experts I can contact to help me and all our speeches go through fact checkers.
I don't socialise with David outside work, and my mates aren't interested in politics. When I tell people what I do, some are fascinated and want to know every detail. Others start pulling apart party policies, especially if they don't vote Conservative. Thankfully, no one's ever started an argument.
The hours can be long. Sometimes I'll be here till 10pm and I'm on call alternate weekends. I haven't missed any big events, but I've cancelled loads of nights out. And my friends are used to me calling things off at the last minute.
When I do make a night out, I sometimes end up working on the phone. But I love my job, so I don't mind that it sometimes takes over my life."
Should there be more women in politics?  
'Tessa Jowell couldn't have done her job without me'
Victoria O'Byrne, 34, was special adviser to London and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell MP. She lives in east London with her fiancé Patrick, 38, who also works as a special adviser in Westminster.
Victoria was Tessa Jowell's right-hand woman

It's a project I'd spent months agonising over. I wrote the brief, liaised with officials, submitted ideas and planned the launch. Now it's finally happening and I'm so proud to be playing a role in a key part of the Olympics.
"At a conference in east London recently, I was bursting with pride as I watched my boss talking to the media about a campaign I'd worked long and hard on. Tessa Jowell was launching the 25th Hour, which will get people volunteering to help in the Olympic Games in 2012.
Until the election was called on April 6, I was Tessa's special adviser. I'd do everything, from making sure she had the information she needed to answer questions from MPs, journalists or constituents, to supporting her in meetings, liaising with her press office, and working on campaigns.
But special advisers are tied to the ministers we work directly for and the departments they run, so when an election is called, Parliament is broken up and Government work winds down so the parties can campaign. Because of that, my role ceases to exist.

Victoria with Peter Mandelson
Depending on the outcome of the election, I might not have a job to go back to. It's worrying, but I knew that when I went into politics. It's not a job you do because it's the regular 9-5. I love it because of the variety and the buzz you get when you feel you've made a difference.
Until we know who's won the election, I'm helping Labour campaign for seats in London.
From an early age I knew politics mattered. Dad was a Labour Party activist, so my childhood is peppered with memories of delivering leaflets during election campaigns. Aged eight, Dad got me to donate some of my Christmas presents to the children of miners who were on strike and not getting paid. I couldn't believe he made me give away my roller skates, but he told me the other kids hadn't received any presents at all. It stayed with me, and I went on to study politics at Sussex University.
When I graduated, I got a job in marketing for BT. It was around the 2001 election that I started to become politically active, volunteering for the Labour Party. Dad was so proud. I even got to meet Bill Clinton when he came to the party conference. He was the guest speaker and was with actor Kevin Spacey. Despite Kevin being a Hollywood star, everyone flocked around Bill. That's the political crowd for you.
After that, I decided I wanted to work in politics full-time. I began working for the Mayor of Hackney, but a year later, I applied for my dream job, head of corporate communications for the Labour Party. To my delight, I got it and worked there for three years, over the 2005 election.
In 2009, I took a secondment to work on the team organising the Olympics, and Tessa appointed me as her special adviser that September.
My working day would begin at 6am when I'd wake up to the Today programme on Radio 4. By 8am, I'd be on a train, reading a round-up of the day's news on my BlackBerry. When I got to the office, Tessa and I would go through what to do that day - anything from liaising with committees in charge of the Olympics to requesting specific briefings so she could answer ministers' questions.
When she was Minister for Culture, Tessa was always really clued up on celebrity news and programmes like The X Factor. Sadly I never had to brief her on Jedward!

Tessa with the PM at the Olympic site
Every day was jam-packed and I rarely left work much before 9pm. Luckily, my fiancé Patrick is in the same field, so he was usually working late, too. We do talk about work a lot, but it means we can have a moan together or offer advice.
We're both on call during the weekend, so we might end up working. I've occasionally had to postpone or cancel nights out, but that's part of the job.
I've met Gordon Brown at Government events - he's very polite and actually quite shy - and I've been working alongside him as he canvasses for votes.
I'm not thinking beyond May 6 at the moment. We're all putting 100 per cent into making sure Labour gets re-elected. For me it's a fight to go all out and win!"'
'The election is more important than my wedding'
Polly Mackenzie, 29, is head of strategic policy for the Liberal Democrats. Originally from North Wales, she lives in London with her film-maker fiancé, Nick, 37.

"When I tell strangers that I work for a political party, I get the full spectrum of responses. Some are intrigued, others think it might be dull, but I wouldn't change it for anything. I get to make a real difference and not many people can say they genuinely do that.
I pushed for the Liberal Democrats to get involved with the campaign to help Gurkhas, which leader Nick Clegg led to victory.
One of our parliamentary candidates wrote to us because a Gurkha lived in his constituency. When I read about how they were being denied the right to live in the UK, despite having been prepared to die for this country in WW2, I was outraged.
Polly in the Lib Dem Party headquarters
After a long campaign with actress Joanna Lumley, the Government finally agreed they could live here. I'm proud of what we achieved and that I helped to make it happen.
Working in politics is hugely rewarding but it's also all-consuming. With the election looming, I barely see my fiancé Nick. Thankfully he's really supportive.
Even when it's not election time, this job has a big impact on my life. I'm getting married in October and I've had to cancel dress fittings because of work. I haven't done any planning for it since February and have had to leave a lot of the organisation to my mum.

With Nick Clegg
I can't remember the last day I didn't do any work. If I'm not in the office till gone 8pm, I'm editing a speech at home or on standby in case Nick Clegg needs anything at short notice.
I became interested in working in politics after I left university. I studied English and got a job on a housing magazine, which involved writing about public policy. That led to a job as the housing and local government adviser for the Lib Dems, and I was so passionate about doing something I believed in, I joined the party in 2005. I'd voted for them in 2001.
I've worked for Nick for three years and I lead the speech-writing team. There's usually three of us, but during the election that doubles to six. We write all of Nick's speeches and articles for newspapers - there's just too many requests for him ¿to do everything himself.
I could write anything, from a speech to the London Stock Exchange to an endorsement for the National British Curry Awards. It's very varied!
A speech-writer is incredibly important. I'm writing words that will reach millions of people. A speech can take weeks if it's for a conference, or half an hour if it's a response to something that's been announced in Parliament.
Normally I'm in the office for 8.30am. I'll quickly scan a couple of papers before getting started on the day's projects.
Nick welcomes everyone's views. He's much nicer than you'd expect a politician to be. There are no rages or tantrums. I've even been to dinner at his house. His wife, Miriam González Durántez, is Spanish and a really good cook.
I don't have friends in the other parties. Most of my mates just aren't very political, although I did date someone from the Labour Party once. It was awful. We had an argument about human rights and it didn't go any further!
But I'm perfectly capable of talking to someone who's not a Lib Dem - even someone from the Conservative Party!"
Westminster's other wonder women
Kirsty McNeill, 30
Formerly Gordon Brown's speech-writer, the Oxford graduate was promoted to the PM's special adviser in September. Downing Street insiders say she is one of the few people to have mastered "Gordon speak''.
Sue Nye, 54
Sue has been close to Gordon for many years. Now his director of government relations, she combines looking after his diary with being his "body person", choosing his ties and telling him to tuck his shirt in.
Nicola Burdett, 37
Gordon Brown has taken on several PR advisers since 2008, including former BBC producer Nicola. Her job is to steer him away from "Mr Bean" moments in front of the press and make sure he's always camera-ready.
The Conservatives
Catherine Fall, 39
Catherine has been David Cameron's deputy chief of staff since he became party leader in 2005. They met at Oxford University, where they both studied. She also helped David run his leadership campaign.
Gabrielle Bertin, 32
David's press secretary, Gabrielle has worked with him since he was shadow Education Secretary. As well as liaising with journalists and setting up interviews, she arranges all his trains, helicopters and cars, and makes sure his tie is straight before he goes on TV.
Liz Suggs, 36
Liz is David's head of operations. She travels around the country with him, organising all of his logistics to make sure he's in the right place at the right time.
The Liberal Democrats
Hilary Stephenson
Nick Clegg has said that Hilary Stephenson, his ¿head of campaigns, will "lead the ground war" for the Lib Dems in the run-up to the general election. Her campaigns are said to have played an important role in improving the party's election results over recent years.
Alison Suttie, 41
As head of Nick's private office, Alison holds real power and is the gatekeeper to the Lib Dem leader - she controls who gets to see him and who doesn't. Nick places huge faith and trust in her as they worked together when he was an MEP.
Cat Turner, 26
As head of online communications, Cat's coordinated the redesign of the party website and is a pioneer for online campaigning.

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