Why councillors make good MPs

The skills and experience gained as a councillor are highly valued by those who approve and select Conservative parliamentary candidates. Our research shows that over half of all the new Conservative MPs elected in 2015, 2017 and 2019 had previously been a Conservative councillor. 

So just why does being a councillor provide an excellent grounding for the job of member of Parliament?

Whether you are in opposition or administration, you will have fought elections as a candidate. So you will know what is involved. Canvassing is about talking to the electorate about what matters to them, but at election time, it is about getting them to vote for you. And when it is your name on the ballot paper you have to sell yourself as well as the policies that you are standing on.

If you’re canvassing yourself, you will be asked, “Go on then. Why should I vote for you?” And you will need to be able to tell stories about yourself, your experience and how that makes you suitable to be their elected representative. You might be surprised just how difficult some people find that. And in the assessment, you will have to do that to convince the assessors that you have what it takes to be an MP.

Get the right team behind you

A successful campaign requires organisation and team building. As the candidate, you are the person that other people are working to get elected. You need to plan out the campaign tasks and make sure they get done. And to do all that you need to find people who will help you, train them and inspire them to do that extra delivery round or knock on those extra few doors at 8pm on a cold November evening. 

If you are a councillor where the Conservatives are the controlling administration, then you will have to support the policies being implemented. Even if you don’t like them. And “the whip” applies in Parliament just as much if not more than it does in the council chamber. That discipline is something that needs to be understood and as a councillor you will have that experience under your belt. But what do you do when you feel uncomfortable with a policy? That’s something the assessors also want to understand about you.

If you are a portfolio holder, then you are faced with making decisions. And in the current fiscal climate and through the pandemic, often very difficult decisions with serious consequences. Your ability to weigh up the evidence, consider the options, find solutions and then deliver them, is something that is viewed very favourably by those who choose our parliamentary candidates. It is also good training should you become part of the Government. “Advisors advise, Ministers decide” still holds true!

Holding the opposition to account

But what if you aren’t running the Council? You might be one of only a small number of Conservatives against a dominant Labour or Lib-Dem administration. How can you hold them to account and stand up for the residents and businesses in your community with no actual power to change anything? That’s where casework comes to the fore. 

Once you’re elected, you represent everyone, not just those who voted for you and an MP is no different. The experience of listening to a distraught single mum with three kids who is living in a one-bed flat and finding a solution to that, carries over to being an MP. They face the same challenges, perhaps at a higher level but often the skills and experiences you gain through dealing with casework are eminently transferrable. Talking about your experiences helps the assessors to see that you are a credible candidate.

As a councillor you will have developed the ability to listen, to show compassion, and to be dogged in the face of bureaucratic responses. You will also have gained the people skills to build relationships with officers and other councillors, who will set aside party differences to help you, if you go in with the right approach. 

Learning is part of the journey

All these skills apply whether you have recently been re-elected, or been unsuccessful in that attempt. The national mood can often be too big a hurdle to overcome, but the experience of fighting and losing is also valuable. Taking a dispassionate look at what you did wrong, and what you did right can help you should you find yourself in the mix for a marginal seat. 

“Battle-hardened” is a positive attribute and the willingness to pick yourself up and go again, despite a personal set back, shows determination and resilience. 

So if you think that becoming a Conservative MP is something you wish to explore, or if you are already on the journey to Westminster, why not book a confidential chat with us to talk about how we can help you draw on your experiences and skills and present yourself in such a way as to give yourself the best possible chance of getting approved, getting selected and getting elected?