Today the nation goes to the polls to decide who will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It does kind of feel like there has been a never ending cavalcade of elections in the last few years but I hope that in amongst the dissertation deadlines and exams everyone who is able to, exercises their right to vote. However, if in the echo chamber of political chatter you are thinking that you are strong and stable enough to lead a government… for the many and not the few… in order to change Britain’s future (that last one is the Lib Dems slogan in case you were wondering), here’s how you could do it:
Pick a Side
Periodically, political discourse in this country suggests that old party lines are blurring or that one party or another are finished. Most recently commentators have been arguing that the Labour Party is doomed but after the Labour landslide of 1997 many said the same thing about the Conservative party. Political upsets can and do happen, but without a crystal ball being able to predict this is pretty hard. However, in the last 159 years Prime Ministers have only come from three political parties; the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberals – and only from two parties, Conservative and Labour, in the last 95 years. So probably the most likely path to become Prime Minster is to throw your lot in with one of the two main political parties and hope that the first past the post system keeps your choice in contention for the foreseeable future.
Once you have picked a side your next step is to be selected as a candidate for your party in a constituency seat. This is probably going to be a bit trickier than picking a side. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives employ assessment centre type tests to shortlist potential candidates onto an approved candidate list. The Labour Party however, omit this step. The next stage is to apply to and be approved by a local party to become their candidate in an upcoming election. Your success here is going to depend greatly on the amount of relevant experience you have and probably the relationships you have formed with members of the party and party officials. So before you apply to be a candidate working closely with your party is going to be a must.
The former Prime Minster David Cameron got his start working as a researcher for the Conservative MP for Lewes (also his Godfather), before working at the Conservative Research Department. The former Prime Minster Gordon Brown was a lecturer in politics and a journalist before being elected as an MP on his second attempt in 1983. Both demonstrated a keen and early interest for politics and had a variety of related experiences before they embarked upon their political careers. Paid work with your chosen political party is going to be highly advantageous as well but securing that is going to require some prior evidence of your qualities and commitment to the cause.
Some things you could be doing to get started
- Join a political student society
- Get work experience with your local MP (once they have been elected)
- Look for organisations involved in policy research affiliated to a political party
- Contact your MEP and enquire about work experience (this is often less competitive than obtaining work experience with MPs but probably isn’t going to remain an option for long!)
- Campaign for your political party
Once you have been selected as the candidate for your party you then need to fight an election. This might be relatively easy if you have been selected for one of your party’s safe seats, but that is going to be unlikely unless you have made some very good friends and massively impressed the party faithful. If your first election is in a tough seat to crack the experience of campaigning successfully or not is going to add to your skills. Do well and even if you don’t win you might have a shot at an easier seat next time around. Through your exceptional oration, diligence and determination you will win over the people and be elected, taking your seat in the Houses of Parliament.
Play the ‘Game of Thrones’
At this point you are a parliamentary backbencher but you want to be at the front talking from the dispatch box, living at number 10 and possessing the key codes to submarine launched thermonuclear missiles. Therefore you need to become leader of your party. Putting yourself forward for ministerial roles wouldn’t hurt and bagging one of the other Great Offices of State (Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary) would certainly give you a boost. You need to bide your time and wait till the leader spot becomes vacant and then put yourself forward as a candidate. Win that election and provided your party is in power, (if not you will also need to win a general election) you will be asked by the Queen (or King, I’m not sure what time scales you are anticipating here but she is 91) to form a government. You will then be Prime Minster of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Well done!