Lady Borwick, MP, on Public Service in the Community

 London A60

On a warm March afternoon, MPW were delighted to welcome RBKC MP Lady Victoria Borwick to give the last in our series of Spring Term Principal’s Lectures. Lady Borwick has dedicated her career to working in politics and explained exactly what local MPs are expected to do and how important this work is. The library was full, with the audience primarily composed of A level politics and economics students wanting to meet their MP and ask questions about the government as well as learn from her experience.

Lady Borwick opened the talk by giving the students some background information about herself and her career: a Londoner born and bred she was born in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, went to school here and subsequently worked here as well as becoming a school councillor in north Kensington. Lady Borwick then discussed exactly what a local council does: “everything you can see out of the window”! By which she meant maintaining the streets, organising rubbish collection, installing bike racks, policing, social services, dealing with noise complaints and a myriad of other services. There are three local councillors per borough and it is not easy to become one. Lady Borwick gave us all a lesson in perseverance when she revealed that it had taken her three election cycles (or 12 years) before she was elected to serve for the Greater London Authority.

In addition to this, Lady Borwick has served London in many other capacities, notably as a London 2012 Olympic Games-Maker, one of a team of volunteers who helped the event run smoothly (she enjoyed the work but detested the uniform), and as Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor (good fun and a steep learning curve). She is passionate about science and technology and we were all surprised to learn that the very precise drilling equipment required in building London’s newest transport option, Crossrail, was made entirely by a team of women.

Lady Borwick is clearly very passionate about her public service, which is lucky as working as an MP is as much a career as it is a lifestyle choice: a seven day a week commitment including Monday night votes that can go on until 2am (although tend to finish at the more 'respectable' hour of 10pm, still what others would consider a rather late working evening). She was asked by the audience about the hardest parts of her job and described this as meeting residents of the borough whom she was powerless to help – sometimes because language barriers make effective communication almost impossible or perhaps because of the bureaucracy between different local councils, who all have their own systems. Lady Borwick makes herself available most Fridays to spend time with those in her constituency and was clearly very open and understanding towards the residents as well as having a genuine and inspiring desire to work to improve the borough and the lives of those within it. We are very grateful to her for her time in giving this talk and also in a wider sense for her lifetime dedication to public service in London.

Jo Carter