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 Featured The North punches below its full weight – but Corbyn won’t neglect it

    The North punches below its full weight – but Corbyn won’t neglect it

    A recent report indicated that of the ten poorest regions in the whole of northern Europe, nine are in Britain. In parts of the North the death of traditional industries has been replaced only with a service economy, warehousing and distribution. Often with these sectors has come part time working, false self-employment and temporary working or zero hours contracts. The North deserves better. Yorkshire is bigger in terms of population on its own than Scotland. But our economy is in […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Scotland Labour lost because voters believed it was anti-austerity

    Labour lost because voters believed it was anti-austerity

    Today the Independent Inquiry into why Labour lost announces the first of its findings. We set up the Inquiry because we wanted an objective, empirical analysis of why Labour lost in May. Our aim is to help Labour understand its defeat and so begin to reconnect with the electorate and rebuild its politics. It will require accepting some hard truths. The first hard truth is that the Tories didn’t win despite austerity, they won because of it. Voters did not […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Burnham: I’ll renationalise the railways

    Burnham: I’ll renationalise the railways

    Andy Burnham will this week pledge to renationalise the railways. He will announce the policy on Thursday, as well as support for re-regulation of bus services and support for high speed cross-country east to west rail services. The leadership candidate will attack the Tories for selling off the East Coast mainline, after the state-run service ran a profit and cut train tickets for customers. In a “personal manifesto” launching this week, Burnham will support bringing rail franchises back into government […]

    Read more →
  • News UK tax system is “not fit for purpose”

    UK tax system is “not fit for purpose”

    Research suggests that talking about tax is not as “politically toxic” with voters as it is perceived to be, and Labour urgently needs to consider radical tax reforms, according to a new Fabian Society report. Tax for our Times (which you can read here) sets out how the “UK’s tax system isn’t fit for purpose and specialists across the board agree on the need for reform”. The pamphlet brings together diverse voices from across the Labour Party, including Patrick Diamond, […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Deputy leader CLP nominations and how they compare to 2007

    Deputy leader CLP nominations and how they compare to 2007

    On Friday the deadline for Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) up and down the country to nominate their chosen candidate in the leadership race closed. Yesterday we published a full table of how CLPs nominated this time round in comparison to 2010. But what about the deputy leadership contest? The CLP results for this year are as follows (we have a full list of how each CLP nominated at the bottom of this page): Ben Bradshaw 20 Stella Creasy 77 Angela […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit