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Jess Phillips is no ordinary politician. At a time when we’ve grown depressingly accustomed to waffle, lies, non-apologies and evasive answers, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley says she’s desperate to treat the public with some respect. “I would really, really like the opportunity to be a minister of state, to make a mistake or a bad decision and be honest about it. I’d really like to say, ‘Fucking hell, that was shit, wasn’t it? Sorry – we tried something and it didn’t work. Let’s try something else.’”
This is typical of Phillips’ unflinchingly honest and often funny take on political life. Where other politicians struggle to ‘do’ normal, Phillips cuts a rare figure. Her outspokenness has earned her a loyal following yet also made her a target for social media vitriol that spews in the direction of many female MPs.
In her new book Everything You Really Need To Know About Politics (look out for the cover’s clever riff on Dolly Alderton’s hit memoir), Phillips sets out exactly what it took for a woman like her – working class, pregnant at 22 – to make it to Westminster.
Her mission is to lay out the facts, and explain what her working week looks like (“On a Monday morning, I could be in front of a constituent with severe mental health needs who is threatening to take their life and by that evening I am eating dinner off a silver platter in the American embassy talking about British-US relations with the US ambassador”) in a bid to lift the lid on the reality of life in politics, and encourage more people to get involved.
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