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Parliamentary Candidate Speaks to Bruton School About a Career in Politics

Friday 21 February 2014, 14:15
By John Baxter

Somerset Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidatea Sarah Yong, with students from Bruton School for Girls

The BSG Lectures

On Thursday 13th February Sarah Yong, was invited by the Head of Bruton School for Girls, Mrs Nicola Botterill, to give a Sixth Form Lecture in the Hobhouse Theatre. Parents and the public were also invited. The aim of these lectures is to expose the girls to aspirational role models that demonstrate what women can achieve across a spectrum of careers they might not have thought about.

Why Sarah was asked

Sarah Yong was invited because she has just been chosen by Somerset Liberal Democrats as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Somerton and Frome Constituency. This is the constituency David Heath is retiring from after representing it for the past 17 years. For a young woman of thirty this presents her with a pretty daunting and demanding task.

From Sexey's to a Career in Politics

Speaking without notes, Sarah started by describing how she has ended up in such an unusual position. She told the audience that it all began when she was a Sixth Form student at Sexey's School, almost next door to BSG. There, David Heath had come to see them and she had been so impressed and inspired by what he had said about the importance of politics that she - along with others - took up his invitation to be shown around the House of Commons. That was enough. She was hooked and knew at some stage politics was what she wanted to do.

Her next step was a good degree in Politics and History from Sheffield University followed by selection for officer training at Sandhurst. While she loved the Army, sadly an injury incurred while there meant she had to withdraw.

Attracted to the world of business she joined Clarks in Street where she was quickly promoted into management, which involved varied roles and visiting branches across the country.

While working there she also met Tessa Munt, who was standing for the Wells constituency as the Liberal Democrat PPC where neither a woman nor a Liberal Democrat had ever won before. Sarah got stuck into working and campaigning for Tessa who, against huge odds, was successful in winning the seat in 2010.

Working for Tessa Munt MP

To her surprise Tessa immediately invited Sarah to become her office manager and for the past four years she has been completely immersed in the world of politics, spending about a quarter of her time in Westminster and the rest in Wells, working directly for Tessa and managing her staff who do research, case-work and communications.

Somerset Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidatea Sarah Yong, with students from Bruton School for GirlsSomerset Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidatea Sarah Yong, with students from Bruton School for Girls

The Questions Start Coming

Sarah then asked for questions which came from the girls thick and fast. They wanted to know more about just what the staff of an MP were doing. Could one get employed as a speechwriter? Were there opportunities for work experience? What degree subjects, like law, were useful?

She answered that while many had law degrees, almost any subject or background was useful for she thought an ability to understand and get close to people and their problems whatever they are is vital, and this means wide human experience.

She felt she had been lucky, despite her youth, not only for the time she had at university, where she was keen on debating, but for what she had learnt about leadership in the army and the wide management experience she had gained at Clarks. Working for Tessa had also been not only very demanding but fascinating in the people she had met and the work she had done. "You never know what you will find yourself doing next. Boring? Never!" she said.

The girls went on to ask how she was chosen and why, and why are so few MPs women? She answered that she was elected after a testing meeting of party members who heard presentations by the five short-listed candidates, who were then grilled with questions. There had been three men and two women. She said she was glad her party did not have a special list for women for she felt she had been chosen in a good, open contest to get the right person for the constituency. She also remarked that it was encouraging that more and more women in her party are being chosen to stand as PPCs.

Clones in the Commons?

One questioner asked, "Why do MPs all look like clones, such a boring bunch of middle class, middle-aged white men?" She replied that at least she was not one of those and her experience of campaigning door to door had given her a lot of confidence when people of all ages had shown they found her easy to relate to.

Certainly the girls found her easy to relate to for the questions kept coming until the Head of the Sixth Form, Miss Fi Donaldson, brought the formal part of the evening to a close and suggested all go through to another room for refreshments. There the questioning and conversations continued.

The three teachers present were very pleased to see their students so engaged and asking such good questions and Sarah was thrilled as several asked her about opportunities to do some political work experience.

Speaking afterwards Sarah said,

"I was delighted to be invited to talk to the girls; this has been one of the most enjoyable things I have done this year so far! These young women are fantastic and so engaged, their questions were excellent.

"Bruton School for Girls does an excellent job of preparing their pupils to go out there and achieve. Quite a few girls were interested in a career in politics in the future which was brilliant to hear, I really look forward to coming back again."

If any other local schools would like Sarah to come and talk to pupils please get in touch by emailing her at .


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