A touch of Gould

10th November, 2011 5:51 pm

I was fresh out of university. The job market was flourishing under Labour. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I felt that the world was my oyster. I was hungry for a job in politics and I was determined not to be the last of my friends to secure employment.    

Browsing through the many adverts on W4MP, I suddenly came across a position to work for Philip Gould. The Philip Gould. Architect of New Labour and polling guru. I knew this was a golden opportunity but I also knew how competitive this position was going to be. Imagine my delight when I got called for an interview.

Wisely I spent ages preparing for my interview and staying up all night reading The Unfinished Revolution. I walked into Philip’s imposing house (coincidentally, in the same ward where I’m now a councillor) feeling a little nervous. Glancing around the beautiful but daunting room, I saw pictures of Philip with political heroes I had only read about.

That’s when it really hit me.

This wasn’t just any interview, this was an interview with Baron Gould of Brookwood. The man responsible for Labour winning three consecutive terms in government. The man who, despite leaving school with one O level, became a key strategic advisor to the Labour Party and one of the country’s most influential men. The man whose political expertise was relied upon by leaders like Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

My new-graduate brazenness depleted slowly and a dull, unfamiliar feeling of terror settled in the pit of my stomach. By the time I was ushered into another huge room stacked with Random House books , I was on the brink of panic.

Philip was on the phone giving some very complicated advice to someone clearly linked to the Clinton administration. With his cup of tea in one hand while pacing round the room, I soon learnt this was Philip’s usual mode.

After what seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life, Philip put down the phone, glanced at my CV on the table in front of him, cocked up one eyebrow and bellowed ‘Tulip – what kind of name is that?! You’ll never make it in politics with an unusual name like that!’

Suddenly my confidence resurfaced and I felt a surge of defiance, retorting: ‘Excuse me Mr Gould, Kitty Ussher has an unusual name and she won a landslide victory at the last election so that’s not true!’

Philip burst into loud guffaws and said ‘I see we have a feisty one here. Interesting! ’

Throughout the interview, Philip continued to pick holes in my life: where I lived, where I went to school, the internship I had done with Oona King (he decided it was my fault she lost her seat in 2005) and even my height. I gave as good as I got because I realised that he enjoyed the lively sparring.

Finally, we got on to the topic of polling. I regurgitated pearls of wisdom from his writing, which I was now well versed in. He looked at me with some element of surprise and asked ‘Have you read my book then?’ I responded confidently ‘Cover to cover’.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘You can start Monday morning, 9am’.

And that’s how I started working for one of the biggest political brains this world will ever have. Philip and I had our differences because we’re both strong willed and differ politically on several issues, but I learnt more in that job than I ever have in my life. His ability to predict and anticipate events in the political landscape was uncanny and a gift that I wish I had managed to learn from him.

Philip was demanding (text messages at 6am) and incredibly hardworking. He set himself impossible deadlines but still managed to meet them and he expected the same kind of dedication from me. He sent me on a course to learn how to conduct focus groups and polling soon after I started and assumed that I was an expert when I returned from the four-day course!  

But even when he was at his most difficult, I could still appreciate that I was working for an actual genius. Very few people I’ve met in my life have the ability to analyse ordinary (non-political) people’s words the way he did, and then formulate political policies based on their thoughts.

One of the most exciting parts of my job was going to Downing Street to drop off policy papers. The first time I passed through security, a bored looking staff member asked me where I had come from. I said ‘Philip Gould’s office’. Immediately, there was a spark of admiration in his eye.

It was the first of many similar reactions I experienced whenever I mentioned Philip’s name.

After working for Philip, I moved to the Greater London Authority where I encountered the same admiring responses when my former boss came up, and these were echoed when I moved on to work in Parliament.

More recently, I moved to a private firm to work in their corporate social responsibility department. On my second day in the job, I was sitting at my desk trying to get used to my new environment (somewhere that had an actual HR department – amazing!), when a very senior partner in the company came over to me. ‘Did you used to work for Philip?’ he asked excitedly.

‘Yes I did’ I said.

Again, that same flash of admiration. My colleagues around the table looked up curiously. Who was this new girl that a senior partner was so interested in?  

‘So did I’ he said. ‘He taught me everything I know. We should meet for lunch when you’re free’.

I smiled ‘Sure’.

‘Aha,’ I thought to myself. ‘That touch of Philip gold never fades. Not even in the private sector’.

Latest

  • Comment All we want is an investigation into founding a Northern Irish Labour Party

    All we want is an investigation into founding a Northern Irish Labour Party

    “There also be institutions between both parts of Ireland and between Britain and Ireland that will also respect diversity and work the common ground. Once these institutions are in place and we begin to work together in our very substantial common interests, the real healing process will begin and we will erode the distrust and prejudices of our past and our new society will evolve, based on agreement and respect for diversity. The identities of both sections of our people […]

    Read more →
  • Comment We need a public and transparent inquiry into the scandal of blacklisting

    We need a public and transparent inquiry into the scandal of blacklisting

    Today is the sixth anniversary of the exposure of blacklisting in the construction industry. Workers had always feared that blacklisting took place but it was not until the Information Commissioners Office raided the Consulting Association that the true industrial scale of blacklisting was revealed. There were 3,123 people on the Consulting Associations blacklist and 44 major construction companies used its services. The blacklisted victims had their livelihoods and often their lives ruined. Often they were unable to find work and many […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Tories’ plan is letting older people down – Labour have a better one 

    The Tories’ plan is letting older people down – Labour have a better one 

    This article is written by Rachel Reeves MP and Andy Burnham MP Older people have been let down by the Tories’ failing plan. Pensioners’ living standards have been hit by the Tories’ refusal to act on rip-off energy fees and pension charges, and social care funding has been slashed. No one will forget George Osborne’s ‘granny tax’, which saw 3.6 million pensioners lose an average of £68 a year. And the Tories’ have failed to come clean about the fact […]

    Read more →
  • News 12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens

    12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens

    There are 12 target seats Labour are worried that they could lose in May because of the Greens, Buzzfeed have found. These are all on Labour’s target seat list – the 106 constituencies the party think it could win back – usually Tory/Labour marginals or Lib Dem-held constituencies. However, this doesn’t mean the Greens are on the right track to win them. In the cases where they aren’t, the worry is that the Greens will split the vote on the left, […]

    Read more →
  • News Tessa Jowell still ahead in mayoral race, poll shows

    Tessa Jowell still ahead in mayoral race, poll shows

    The Evening Standard have released the results of their latest Mayoral poll, to see who Londoners would most like to be Labour’s candidate. And it’s good news for Tessa Jowell. Since YouGov last did this poll for the Standard, Margaret Hodge and Andrew Adonis have dropped out the race (the former hasn’t formally backed anyone yet, while the latter has thrown his weight behind Jowell). YouGov asked 1,011 people who they thought the best candidate would be for mayor. They […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit