- Also known as
- Video: - Aileen: Member of the Scottish Parliament
- Video: - Lord Puttnam: Politician and Film Producer
- Video: - Alan: MP for Darlington
- Work Activities
- Personal Qualities and Skills
- Pay and Opportunities
- Entry Routes and Training
- Adult Opportunities
- Further Information
Politicians represent the views, interests and concerns of their local population at local, national or European Union level. Some might also contribute to forming and putting into practice party policy, for example, on social, economic and foreign policy issues. They work either independently or for a political party. Local people in specified areas (called constituencies) elect politicians.
Also known as
- Member of Parliament
- Assembly Members (Wales)
Video: - Aileen: Member of the Scottish Parliament
Video: - Lord Puttnam: Politician and Film Producer
Video: - Alan: MP for Darlington
In a democracy, the people elect Politicians to represent them in government, to act on their behalf and to protect their interests.
People expect Politicians to care deeply about the social, economic and foreign policy issues that affect them.
As a Politician in the UK, you will represent voters from your local areas (called constituencies) in the House of Commons, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales. Some Politicians represent the interests of the United Kingdom in the European Parliament.
As a Member of the parliaments (MPs in England, MSPs in Scotland, AMs in Wales, and MEPs in Europe) or the assemblies, you will divide your time between helping people in your constituencies and taking part in central, national or international government.
You must expect to work in the public eye, for example, in televised sessions of the House of Commons or National Assembly for Wales. Here, you'll get the chance to debate important issues and propose changes to the law.
This exchange of views is an essential part of a democracy; it can be very lively, with Politicians from opposing parties attacking each other's policies and asking difficult questions.
Newspaper and television Journalists will often interview you, especially if you hold important positions in the Government or opposition parties. Sometimes you might also appear on television or radio news and current affairs programmes.
However, a lot of your work as a Politician takes place out of the public eye. You might be involved with several different committees, each one responsible for a particular aspect of party policy or government. You'll have to examine each issue in detail.
With the help of Political Researchers, you'll obtain information and analyse documents and statistics. This helps you to contribute to the committees, and to answer questions from other Politicians, the media and the public.
You will need to attend meetings of your political party to discuss and decide which ideas you should put into practice as policy. You might have the opportunity to express your views, although sometimes you will have to conform to the wishes of the party's leaders (this is called the 'party line') - even if you don't agree with them!
As a Politician, you will divide your time between parliament and your constituency, which could be many miles away. You'll run sessions (called surgeries) at set times, which are open to everyone who lives in your constituency. People can go to a surgery to discuss the issues that concern them, for example, housing, transport or employment.
Some people might be very angry or upset by a particular issue, so you must listen carefully and ask the right questions to find out how best to help them. People will also email or write to you and ask for help.
Sometimes, you might not be able to solve a problem at the constituency. In this situation, you might then ask a Caseworker or Political Researcher to find out more about an individual's case, which could take a long time to resolve. You may might even raise the case at a government meeting.
To solve a problem, or to prevent it happening again, you will sometimes work closely with representatives from the local community, local authority or the police.
Politicians travel in the local area and nationally, and might sometimes travel overseas.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a Politician, you'll need to be:
- Committed to helping people, and to representing the interests of the people who elected you.
- Prepared to work hard to stay in touch with the opinions, concerns, problems and needs of people in your constituency.
- Up to date with current affairs.
- A quick thinker, able to spot a weakness in your opponent's argument and exploit it with a difficult question or challenging remark.
- Resilient and able to cope with criticism; sometimes, you might have to deal with protests.
- Prepared for strong interest from the media, including into your lifestyle or personal affairs. This sometimes happens if there are aspects that seem to contradict the policies, messages or images officially conveyed by your party.
- Able to make tough, unpopular decisions if you believe that a policy is best in the long-term.
You should have:
- Excellent communication skills, to explain your ideas, and the policies of your party, clearly and concisely to others.
- Good listening skills: for example, to find out about people's problems during surgery sessions in the constituency.
- Interpersonal and teamwork skills, to work closely with other politicians, researchers and campaign staff.
- Lots of confidence - you will have to speak to large crowds, or appear on television programmes to answer interview questions.
You will have a very responsible role in society and you might come to have considerable power. However, you must remember that it is the people who elect politicians and therefore allow them to have this power. As a result, politicians are accountable to the people, who will have strong expectations about the way that politicians should behave.
Pay and Opportunities
The parliamentary salary of MPs in the House of Commons is £74,962 a year. Members of the Scottish Parliament receive £60,685 a year. Members of the National Assembly for Wales receive £64,000 a year. Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly receive £49,000 a year.
Councillors in local authorities receive allowances but no salary.
Hours of work
Most Politicians work long and irregular hours, including evening and Saturday 'surgeries' - where they deal in person with constituents' problems.
Where could I work?
Politicians win election to the House of Commons in London, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont (in East Belfast), and the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.
Politicians work in their constituencies as well as in their respective parliamentary locations.
Members of the European Parliament work in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Career politicians are self-employed, though they might also hold appointments in the voluntary and/or the private sector.
Where are vacancies advertised?
You will need to belong to a political party and then apply to become one of their approved candidates. Or you could stand as an independent candidate; further information is available on the Electoral Commission website.
Entry Routes and Training
There is no fixed way to become a Politician and, even if you achieve your aim, losing an election can mean unemployment.
Many entrants have become Politicians after successful careers in other areas, often law, business or education.
Most Politicians have been active members of a political party. Many have served a political 'apprenticeship' by holding a position of responsibility in a party, trade union, pressure group or council.
You may be able to gain experience by helping to organise election campaigns or by working as a Political Researcher.
There are also limited opportunities to serve a political party as a full-time officer, usually based at a headquarters. Party officers might specialise in, for example, a policy area, speech writing, researching or getting media coverage for the party.
To stand for election as a Member of Parliament, you will need to be at least 18 (to comply with the Electoral Administration Act) and a British citizen (or able to meet certain other nationality requirements).
You will need to be accepted as a possible candidate for election by your political party. You will need to be proposed and seconded by registered voters in the constituency and supported by other local party members. You will then need to be invited to stand for election in a particular constituency.
Alternatively, you could stand as an independent candidate, without the backing of a political party. Your nomination paper must still be signed by ten electors from the constituency.
All candidates have to pay a deposit, which is returned if they get over five percent of the votes cast. There is a legal limit to the amount of money a candidate can spend on their election campaign. During the campaign, they usually write and distribute leaflets, visit voters at home, make speeches at public meetings and sometimes appear on local television and radio or in the local press.
You'll need long-term staying power; many Politicians must fight several election campaigns before their party rewards them with the opportunity to compete for a seat that they have a realistic chance of winning.
Experienced Politicians might become cabinet ministers, with responsibility for a particular government department, for example, health, education or transport.
No formal qualifications are required. Politicians must be excellent communicators and, if members of a political party, committed to that party's values and traditions.
To stand for election as a Member of Parliament, you'll need to be at least 18 and a British citizen, a resident citizen of another Commonwealth country or of the Irish Republic.
You must not be disqualified (various categories of people are not able to stand for election including undischarged bankrupts, people serving a sentence of more than one year's imprisonment, civil servants, police officers, members of the armed forces and members of the House of Lords).
Age limits apply to this occupation. To stand for election as a Member of Parliament, you'll need to be at least 18 to comply with the Electoral Administration Act.
Most politicians have a political background before they stand for election to a parliament or assembly. This can be serving as a local councillor or an elected party official, for example, or working as a political researcher.
Developing expertise and knowledge in one or more policy areas, for example, health or transport, can help you to establish a reputation. This is often gained through an existing career. Typical examples are careers in law, business or the public services at a senior level.
Relevant skills also include public speaking, committee and management work.
Unelected political jobs often need relevant skills and qualifications, for example, in press work, marketing or conference organising.
For senior elected posts, enquiries are made by the candidate's political party into their background and character.
Financial support can come from a variety of sources, such as trade union sponsorship and local constituency associations.
There are strict rules on who electoral candidates can accept donations towards election expenses from. Donations must be declared.
UK government services and information
European Parliament Information Office in the United Kingdom
Address: Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU
Tel: 020 7227 4300
European Parliament Information Office in Edinburgh
Address: The Tun, 4 Jackson's Entry, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ
Tel: 0131 5577866
Address: Conservative Campaign Headquarters, 30 Millbank, London SW1P 4DP
Tel: 020 7222 9000
Address: Labour Central, Kings Manor, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6PA
Tel: 0845 0922299
Address: 8-10 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AE
Tel: 020 7222 7999
Working for an MP (W4MP)
Address: 67 Northumberland Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JG
Tel: 0131 5240030
Scottish Green Party
Address: Bonnington Mill, 72 Newhaven Road, Edinburgh EH6 5QG
Tel: 0870 0772207
Scottish Labour Party
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Address: 4 Clifton Terrace, Edinburgh EH12 5DR
Tel: 0131 3372314
Scottish National Party (SNP)
Address: Gordon Lamb House, 3 Jackson's Entry, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ
Tel: 0800 6335432
Address: Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT
Tel: 020 7549 0310
MP For A Week
Publisher: UK Parliament
Welsh Liberal Democrats
Wales Green Party