A few years ago I got accepted to study an MA course in International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. I deferred entry because I was moving, and then deferred again because something didn’t sit right. I knew that I wanted to study at master’s level, and since I’d worked in politics and wanted to go back into it at some point, it made sense on an intellectual level.
The thing was, as I kept deferring, coming up with rationalisations for doing so — admittedly compelling ones, such as my having health issues for a while and the death of a treasured loved one — I knew something wasn’t right.
The huge rise in membership of former UKIPers was awful to see. Then, the final straw: The almost unbelievable mass deselection of dozens of truly talented MPs who dared to rebel against Johnson (previously a rebel himself) over how we exited the EU. Throw on the blatantly bent procurement and jobs for the old boys and frankly, I can’t believe that the this is the party I joined in 2005.
I thought I’d fallen out of love with politics for a while; that it was temporary, and I’d be back, ready to work in electoral politics again. I’d certainly had a falling out with the Conservatives, but I thought that things would change in the party or perhaps I’d the Lib Dems and finding an MP to work for. As it turned out, more I have grown and reflected on both my time in politics and also the party machines themselves, the more I realise that I want absolutely nothing to do with it any more.
The Conservative Party I once knew and dedicated myself to had not just temporarily changed under May, with her bland mix of social conservatism and economic statism (the opposite to which my politics were, as a liberal Tory) through to right-wing populism. The electorate had swapped one unaccountable elite for another, and frankly seeing them win so much in the latest elections was enough to know that the style isn’t going anywhere soon.
That’s the thing with the Conservative Party. It used to be a coalition of people who want to keep Labour, a more ideological party, out of power, for various reasons. Mine were varied but broadly a dedication to freedom, enterprise, helping those who first try to help themselves (if they can), to fixing the economic crisis and reforming public services so that the sector served the people it was supposed to. Only now, the ‘broad church’ assessment of the party no longer holds up.
Enter my Autism and politics being one of my obsessions, my falling out with politics was a termination of an obsessive relationship which I had. The process was almost like grief.
I know that the Conservative Party was no longer for me. And with that, I know that electoral politics wasn’t for me. The Liberal Democrats are too left-wing and the Labour Party is, and always has been, a fine mess, and always leaves the country after it has governed it in the dame way: Higher unemployment and a weakened economy. That’s what socialism does. I’d have probably voted for Blair-led Labour, but not any other leader in its history.
Back to the point of studying. Over the past few years, I turned the skills that I’d developed in business, sales, marketing and communications to the third sector. First in a voluntary capacity at First Steps ED as a trustee for marketing, and now working for an Autism charity in Derbyshire in marketing and development. I really enjoy my job and I am committed to the third sector. I’ve always believed that charity is the best way to help to those who need it.
I found the perfect course. An MSc Management with Marketing course delivered online at Lincoln University Business School. It’s part-time, delivered over two years and required 18 hours per week. It’s a huge undertaking to do at the side of a full-time job, but I don’t have a family to take care of, so I don’t have the time constraints that many people do have.
I’m into my first week, and it is most certainly keeping me stimulated. The first module is leadership development and I am already finding the materials fascinating, given that I can apply my undergraduate psychology degree to many areas.
Coming later in the course are other fascinating modules which I’ll also be able to readily apply my knowledge, and areas that I’ve read a lot about already. These include applied economics and organisational psychology. There are others that I already practise but would like to formalise my learning, such as digital marketing, and also those which I know little about, such as financial analysis, appraisal and decision making and international marketing planning.
I must admit that I am, given that it’s week one, incredibly nervous. Studying after graduating from my undergraduate more than a decade later is indeed quite daunting, but I feel that I am getting into the swing of things. I hope so. It doesn’t mean that I’m not riddled with doubt, though.
That’s one thing that I need to try to face, and I think that doing this degree will be good for me, too: Imposter syndrome. Do you ever feel like you internalise all of your misgivings and mistakes, but when it comes to your achievements, you either don’t feel like you’ve done anything, or magically ascribe them to externalities or other people? That’s pretty much the definition of it, and doing something challenging is one of the best things that you can do to overcome it.
So, that’s me for the next two years. I’ll be incredibly busy, but I’ll make sure that they count. It’ll be useful for my job, employer, my personal development and my natural thirst for knowledge. I’ve paused all my consultancy practices, will not be taking on any more work in that sphere, and will be trying to balance study, work and family/friends life.
Wish me luck!