Stranger’s: Parliamentary Assistant

Life as an MP's aide is a dream job - but not when it means dealing with everyday sexism. Parliament's workplace culture needs to change, says Sophie Stowers


What would be your first priority on entering Downing Street? To tackle the climate emergency in the short time we have left. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has told us we have just 11 years to take meaningful action. That means acting without delay. I would start straight away on massive investment into a Green New Deal, transforming our economy and building security at every level.

Who would be your chancellor? Caroline Lucas, one of the earliest proponents for a Green New Deal. She knows the changes we need to see in our economy. For too long, our politicians have worshipped GDP and lost sight of things that actually build quality of life – a safe environment, a strong community, time away from work, a secure home, job and family life.

What would your other major appointments be? We’d shake up central government rather than putting people into roles geared to the wrong priorities. At our conference, we made plans to abolish the racist Home Office, shut down detention centres, and put new ministries in its place.

If I couldn’t be co-prime minister with him, I’d have my co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, head up a new Ministry for Sanctuary to enforce migration rules with compassion. He’d be complimented by Magid Magid as foreign secretary. My fellow London Assembly Member, Caroline Russell, would be in charge of transport, kickstarting a walking and cycling revolution.

What policy area would you promote that you feel is currently neglected? The unfettered free market in housing is causing huge harm, with developers dictating planning rules, undermining definitions of “affordable” housing, while sitting on hundreds of thousands of planning permissions they aren’t using because their business model depends on keeping prices sky high. Empty homes and buildings need new laws like those in Scotland that enable communities to use land and buildings for the common good.

What would you most like to change about the way government works? I’d reboot our democracy, so our government is more responsive to what people actually want and need. Westminster needs proportional representation. First Past The Post means that the views and interests of the people are not reflected in parliament. We’d also lower the voting age to 16, produce a written constitution and bring in an elected second chamber.

What’s the speech you’d most like to make? I’d love to make a speech in the year 2030 celebrating how we came together to go carbon-neutral in a decade. I want to give a speech about being proud of the decade behind us, rather than fearful of the decades ahead.

Which former prime minister would you least seek to emulate? There are too many to choose from. Theresa May for her deadly hostile environment policies? Cameron as the architect of austerity? Blair for the Iraq disaster? Thatcher for nearly half a century of privatisation and neoliberalism? I wouldn’t emulate any of them. We need a completely new approach.

Which former prime minister do you most admire? Rather than looking into the past, I’d rather look around the world to leaders who are showing us what the 21st century could look like. I recently met Julia Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia who did an iconic job of calling out sexism in politics. New Zealand’s current prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is a real inspiration, an example of how a young woman can lead a country with confidence. She shows us how wellbeing and compassion can credibly form central pillars of government. Compare leadership like Jacinda’s to the privileged, entitled bullies who run our country, and the slouching layabouts who prop them up. It’s embarrassing. Britain could do so much better.

26th January 2020