Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron and SNP MP Angela Crawley pen an open letter to the people who inspire them
Nadine Dorries' letter to the Kardashians
Dear The Kardashian Family,
You might seem like peculiar idols for me to admire. On the face of it, our lives couldn’t be more different: mine, as a Conservative MP, living in England, yours steeped in unprecedented glamour and money, the quintessential American dream. You’re not particularly politically engaged, you haven’t produced ground-breaking science, literature or even music. Yet, for me, there’s one thing you represent that can’t be easily gained or replicated, something invaluable which we both possess: tenacity.
Growing up, in Anfield, Liverpool, working hard was the foremost lesson I learned. My father, a bus driver, was often ill and my mother desperately tried to make ends meet as she trained to be a teacher. We hid from the rent man, skipped meals frequently. I vividly remember the feeling of true, unrelenting hunger.
That feeling meant as an adult, determined that, despite where I came from and the cycle of poverty in which I could have been destined to live, I would make a change. I vowed to work hard, and I did. I trained first as a nurse, then I moved to Central Africa to set up and run a school for a year. On my return, I set up an employee benefits company helping women balance their careers and parenting, which was soon earning me half a million pounds per year. I sold it, I became an MP, and I wrote books, becoming a best-selling novelist. I worked seven days per week, every week. I still do.
I learned that you have to take every opportunity that comes along and try your absolute hardest to make that successful. I never wanted my own children – three successful girls, aged 24, 28 and 30; who adore you too – to go without as I did. I wanted them to be strong, independent women who are powerful in their own right. Just like you, I wanted them to be unapologetic about who and what they are – to shrug off critics in sound mind that they are being true to themselves, whatever that may mean, and to value family. And, when I catch up with you on the TV from time to time, that’s what I see in you, the Kardashians.
Others may criticise you for being ‘low-brow’, for being the wrong type of role models, or being superficial or boring. Perhaps they are right in some ways, but I don’t think we should take our role models from one social class, or one area of life – strong women and strong families come in all shapes and sizes. Family has always been the most important thing to me and I can tell that, ultimately, it is for you too – except you’ve managed to turn yours into a global empire with an influential, modern matriarch, Kris Jenner, at the helm.
I’m not saying you’re perfect – who is? – and maybe this year you could do some things differently. I’d love to see you use your status and power to speak up for women who aren’t afforded it themselves and make some real change. But regardless of your pitfalls, I’ll always admire your savvy business skills and your ability to make what you have work for you in the best way possible. I know you’ll be around for years to come because in one way at least we’re similar – we’re always looking for the next opportunity, and we take it. And that’s something that I hope the next generation can learn from you too.
My 2016 pledge to women
“Having contributed to the Government’s consultation on anti-stalking legislation, I pledge to press ministers to treat this as a serious issue and ensure that women can access and use technology without fear, in the same way as men.”
Nadine is MP for Mid Bedfordshire
Tim Farron's letter to Bill Clinton
Dear Bill Clinton,
I first got to know you when I was a student at Newcastle University in 1992 watching your election debates in my bedroom on a rubbish old TV. You were talking about how you could build an economy that worked for everyone and I was hanging on every word. It wasn’t just what you were saying, although I did passionately agree with you. It was also how you said it. I was studying politics, and watching you I thought: this is what I want to be like and how I want people to see me. You were, it felt to me at the time, the embodiment of the values of JFK – selfless public service.
Your election the following year ended an era in which the Republican Party had controlled the White House continuously for 12 years, and for 20 of the previous 24 years. I came from a small-‘p’ political family in Lancashire. My mother cared about day-to-day issues and taught me what was right and to fight things that were wrong. I joined Shelter when I was 16, then the Liberal Party and I was inspired as much by American politics as what was happening over here.
For me, your presidency heralded a break from the Reagan, ‘do nothing era’ – when if you had AIDS or were homeless and needed help, that wasn’t what the Government was there for.
One of the most striking things I remember was your rebuke to ‘Trickledown’ economics – the theory that favours the rich over the poor that had pervaded the Eighties. You said in your inaugural address that, “We – the American people – we are the solution.” I found it so empowering. The quote has pride of place in my office and I regularly have it in the back of my mind when I think about my role and my daily work life.
But the reason you are such an inspiration to me is summed up in a single discussion. When you responded to AIDS activist Bob Rafsky, saying, “I feel your pain”, you summed up for me what a politician at their best should be. Compassionate, empathetic and determined to deliver a country where the next generation can do better than the last. At my surgeries I meet constituents who talk to me about a variety of problems. Those that stick with me are young people with mental health issues who have no idea where to turn. There are then events that have a profound and lasting effect: the deaths of young people who have struggled with mental health conditions. These events have brought to light serious flaws in the way we support young people. Improvements have to be made.
You changed my views on a few things too; I thought of your action helping deal with the genocide in Kosovo when I was mulling over what I should do. The world stood idly by when the Rwandan genocide happened. But you stood up about Kosovo and said, “We cannot do nothing. We can and must act.” You made the bold, brave and liberal decision to intervene to save lives. You led a broad coalition that involved military action that helped end a genocide.
In the next Presidential debates, I hope your wife inspires the next generation, like you did me. You helped fire my passion, encouraged me to put myself forward for office and most importantly, to try my best to make a difference to the world.
Best wishes, Tim
My 2016 pledge to women
“I will challenge my party to take steps to ensure 50% of our target seats in 2020 have a woman candidate. It is also time to end the taboo on speaking about violence against women. Politicians must tackle this head on.”
Tim is MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale
Angela Crawley's letter to Arianna Huffington
Dear Arianna Huffington,
It was late 2007 and I was 21 when I first came across your book On Becoming Fearless… In Love, Work And Life in my local bookshop. The ideas I read over the next few days were striking – empowering, authoritative, and fierce, in the best way possible. Each word resonated with me.
I started to look at more of your work. I saw that you’d spoken out vehemently against NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, where others didn’t, or wouldn’t. I read that you were less concerned with traditional political alignment of the left and the right, and more concerned about the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. I learned that, like me, you were from a hard-working family and that, despite the discrimination you’d faced, you refused to back down for what you believe in.
I could relate to that; getting into politics meant I saw multi-faceted discrimination. I get it because I’m female, I get it because I’m young (I was 24 when I was first elected as a local councillor, and 27 as an MP). I get it because of my sexual orientation or because I’m not from the right affluent, ‘elite’ background. I remember filing motions to improve services in my local area early in my career, and being dismissed with the implication that I was ‘just a little girl’ who didn’t know what she was doing. Leave it to the men, they said, in not so many words. It really was a boys’ club. Looking up to people like you, who had taken on the world of publishing and made their mark, meant I remained undeterred.
I grew up in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, with my working-class, unrelentingly determined parents. We weren’t well off, but we were happy. I was quiet, though quietly passionate, until my late teenage years. I knew I wanted to make a change in the world – but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. It’s not until you see women breaking down those barriers, putting themselves out there and taking on difficult challenges that you start to believe you can too.
And your voice is just as motivating to me now as it was back then. Recently, you wrote a piece encouraging women to be more fearless in taking on leadership roles, and I couldn’t have agreed more – in fact, I think it’s something that the whole government should be looking at.
You’re a huge, inspirational figure in the feminist world for me – you’ve not only built a global empire in The Huffington Post, but you’re implementing change, too. I want to see a world where gender, age or sexual orientation aren’t barriers to your success. And politics where I’m not referred to as ‘openly gay’ because, let’s face it, you’d never describe someone as ‘openly heterosexual’. All of these things should be completely irrelevant – or, better, totally ignored. And with people like you paving the way for more women to speak up, I’m more hopeful than ever that we’ll get there.
So thank you, Arianna, for making me more assertive. Thank you for inspiring generations of women, for encouraging female empowerment and, ultimately, for making it possible for more young women to be totally, unashamedly fierce.
My 2016 pledge to women
“To work to ensure that Scotland and the UK become a more equal place for everyone. I’ll be putting pressure on the government to take action to consign discrimination, such as that still faced by transgender people in society, to the history books.”
Angela is MP for Lanark and Hamilton East