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Straight Talk: Sarah Wollaston MP

[This is one in a series of blog posts written by Charlotte the Intern.  Tune in daily to find out about what she’s been up to, what she has been learning about, and all of the crazy things she does as part of the Manna from Devon team.]

Having lived in Washington, DC, for seven years before I moved abroad, I couldn’t help but develop an interest in politics.  It’s no secret that DC’s reputation in the rest of the US, and indeed much of the rest of the world, is that its a strange bubble of political activity, power plays, and clandestine meetings far removed from the actual needs of the American people.  This is both true and not true.  Outside of the Hill and Downtown, where the big law firms and lobbyists have their office buildings, DC is a diverse, vibrant city that has a very distinct culture.  But the areas frequented by the government crowd can soon make anyone feel that they are surrounded by people speaking in acronym-laden code.

This feeling quickly grew tiresome, and along with so much else, caused me to begin to regard American politics and politicians with a certain sense of jaded skepticism.  Needless to say, the events of the last week at the Capitol haven’t helped that.  Now, as I look at some of the appalling behavior happening across the pond, in the government of my own country, I find myself wanting to write about the time, a couple of weeks ago, that I saw Sarah Wollaston MP speak in Dartmouth.

Listening to Sarah chat with that small Dartmouth audience was like taking a deep breath of fresh air.  When Holly and David first invited me to come with them to her event at the Flavel, I wasn’t sure how relevant the subject matter would be to me.  And admittedly, there were some moments when Holly had to lean over and clue me in on what exactly was going on.  For example, a short discussion about HS2 sounded at first like we were talking about launching a space shuttle, and I actually had no idea that Scotland is voting on independence in less than a year.  But for most of the time, the issues about which Sarah was asked (food and health, reform in the criminal justice system) ran parallel to debates that are currently happening in the US.  It was interesting to hear about all the ways in which citizens of this country differ or align in opinion from citizens of my own.

But my favorite thing about listening to Sarah speak was the candor with which she discussed her role in the government, and her clear vision of her own principles.  Clearly, whether you agree with her policies or not, you have to admire that she really thinks about each issue from all sides, forms a solid opinion, and sticks to her guns no matter what.  She practices politics with integrity, telling us that night that she feels a truly successful MP is one who won’t win in reelection.  It means they stood resolute in their convictions.  This was refreshing to hear, and its something we could use a whole lot more of.

Of course, this is pretty far outside of the activities that generally seem to be on my “plot”: bread making, writing blog posts, heckling all of you good people about the great chats we’ve got lined up for Eat Your Words.  I feel so lucky that my time here has already been rich with such different experiences, and I’m only just over halfway through!