On Freedom, Politics and Love

A Girl, A Style _ Politics and Love

Hi lovelies! Apologies for the radio silence around these parts the past couple of weeks. Following a glorious week in Italy (more on that later), I spent every waking hour campaigning for the EU referendum here in the UK (for unglamorous proof, see here), and every day since trying to find the words and come to terms with the enormity of what has happened.

Most of you will know I work in politics by day, so caring about what is going on is literally my job.  But the past week was on another level, and even Lord Dobbs would probably dismiss the events that ensued as too far-fetched a plotline for a season of House of Cards.

For those outside the UK trying to grasp exactly what ‘Brexit’ means and what on earth is going on, in summary: against the warnings of just about every economist, expert and world-leader the UK public voted to leave the European Union (a result no one predicted or expected), the global economy immediately went into freefall (the £ tumbled to its lowest level in 40 years and three trillion $ was immediately wiped off the international market), the ‘Leave’ camp retracted their main campaign promises within hours of claiming victory (as ‘not actually possible’), internal party warfare even stranger than fiction (seriously; you couldn’t make up the events of this week in Westminster) broke out in both the Government and Opposition parties immediately afterwards, the breakup of Great Britain seems highly likely (Scotland have said they now want to leave and Ireland is considering reunification, leaving just England and Wales), and no one can predict quite what will happen next or when we will regain stability. In short, we’re in the midst of the greatest crisis of identity for generations.

For me, the most worrying part of all of this is the rise of extreme nationalism and the resulting deep division that has emerged in the UK since the vote; at the moment, it feels like we’re a country divided like no other point in recent history. I, like most, had assumed that these sentiments were confined to the far-right fringes of society, but the result proves that is not the case. Nor is it confined to the UK; last week’s vote just echoes the political and ideological shifts happening elsewhere in the US and many parts of Europe.

And let’s be honest, for many, hate is a powerful political motivator; hate of that which we cannot understand, of those who are different to us, or of ways of life unlike our own. But I like to think there is something more important than hatred: love. Whether it be in the form of compassion, generosity, equality or tolerance (for those the same, different, or less fortunate than us), love is worth so much more than hatred, and must be defended accordingly.

So, what’s my point exactly? Principally this: we can’t just sit by and wait for others to fix the problems or injustices we see around us, or assume that things will always be alright in the end. While young people will be the most affected by the outcome of this referendum for generations to come, only 36% of 18-24 year olds actually turned out to vote. Put simply, that means 2/3 didn’t actually make the effort to have a say in their future, so instead it was decided for them by others.

We have made great progress and strides towards kindness and equality, but there is still much more to be done. We are extremely fortunate to at last be in a place where the right to vote is almost universal (though let us not forget that there are still too many countries where free and fair elections are not the norm), and we have a democratic duty to treat that vote with respect.

I’m constantly asked why I still maintain my day job when I could just blog full-time (and get to talk about fashion and lipstick for a living), but I went into politics for one simple reason: I wanted to make the world a better place than when I found it. Idealistic though that goal may be, it feels pretty wonderful to know I’m getting stuck in and fighting for what I believe in (after all, I have no right to complain about the result if I didn’t fight for the cause). So if you care about something and want to see change, be that change: campaign for a cause you believe in, write to your MP/Congressman/Senator, join the political party you most identify with and help shape things from the inside, and above all, register and vote. We must not sit by and allow others to decide our future for us, and we must not be complacent and assume that reason will always win out in the end; it will only if we make it so.

So, go forth and vote! 

Love, Miss B xx


A Little Life Update: On Blogging Alongside a Career

A Girl, A Style _ Westminster Louboutins

It’s been a while since my last life update, so I thought I’d share the latest. As many of you will know, I have worked full time in politics the whole time I’ve had this blog (over 6 years – how time flies); first as a government policy advisor on domestic affairs, then as a parliamentary advisor to a Cabinet Minister for five years (until my boss retired from Parliament last year), and now at a policy consultancy.

I don’t deny that politics and lifestyle blogging are a strange combination. While most other bloggers either have complementary jobs (usually in fashion or beauty), or eventually give up their jobs altogether to become full-time bloggers, I have always been somewhat of an anomaly amongst my peers for having (and maintaining) two such disparate roles. For a long while I struggled with being both at once – fearing my colleagues in politics would dismiss me as frivolous whilst thinking my blogging industry peers didn’t see me as a ‘real blogger’ even though my readership numbers were just as good as theirs (I’d always have to skip daytime events and then rush to evening events straight from Parliament, to the bemusement of everyone else).

And then I came to realise that just like I always relate more to bloggers who, like me, hold down full time careers alongside their blogs*, I like to think that having a career separate to this blog makes me similarly relatable to my readers (I know that most of you are not yourselves full-time bloggers; I receive more emails from readers asking for career advice each week than I do about any other subject).

So I decided to ignore Sheryl Sandberg and Lean Sideways in my career (not quite as catchy, I’ll admit). After endlessly feeling guilty that I was too burned out after long days at work to find the creative energy to blog, but not wanting to just give up the career I’ve worked in for over a decade (and spent six years at university working towards), I made the decision to ignore a promotion this time in favour of taking Fridays off to work on my blog and creative projects from now on. My peers in Westminster would probably consider this career suicide (in politics you’re no one unless you’re the top of the game, which includes being available to your boss and journalists 24/7); but because I don’t know anyone else in the blogosphere with my strange career combination, I’ve decided to make my own rules.

And I couldn’t be more excited! I still won’t be able to blog daily like my full-time peers, but you can expect considerably more regular updates from me from now on.

So, as always, please let me know if there are any specific topics you’d like me to cover more from now on. Do you want to see more outfits and personal style? Beauty? Lifestyle and advice? Home and interiors? And I know so many of you want to know more about careers advice, so please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll cover all of them in a separate post.

Have any of you ‘leaned sideways’ at any point in your career? Do you work and blog at the same time? I’d love to read your advice, tips and questions in the comments below!

Love, Miss B xx

*(…inspiring women like Krystal from This Time Tomorrow, who works at Google, Blair from Atlantic Pacific who works at Tory Burch, Kristina who is an anesthesiologist (!), and my good friend Nicolette Mason, who is an editor at Marie Claire and spends countless hours championing equality in fashion.)


Vote Coco (not really…)

A Girl, A Style _ Vote coco
I hope you won’t mind, but I thought I’d return from my unofficial blogging hiatus with something a little different to my normal programming. Despite the usually hyper-feminine tone of this blog, many of you will know that by day I actually have a serious job as a political advisor in Westminster.

I’ve been working in politics since 2002, when I first went to Washington to intern for a Senator; my office was on the same marbled corridor as Ted Kennedy and Hilary Clinton, and President Bush was just about to launch a war in Iraq. Although I was always raised to be politically aware and to play an active part in society, in those first months ‘on the inside’, I came to realise first-hand what a very real and direct impact politics has on all of our lives. And for me, there was no turning back from there. I wanted to be a part of of this world; to help others, to make a difference and, in my own small way, to help shape those policies for the better.

On May 7th, the UK goes to the polls to decide who will govern the country for the next five years. Casting your vote is one of the biggest, if not the most significant, decision you will make all year. Yet even though we live in a world where still individuals struggle and sacrifice and die for the right to vote, at the last General Election in 2010, only 54% of women my age voted. That means almost half of my female peers had no say in their democracy and the very laws which shape our nation and daily lives.

But here’s the catch: whether you take an interest in politics or not, it still directly impacts on your life every single day. From the sweeping general issues; the national economy (the strength of which determines how much tax you pay, whether jobs are being created and paying well, how affordable your mortgage is, and so on), the government services we all need to access at some point in our lives (the infrastructure and innovation the government invests in, the schools our future children will go to, the NHS we turn to when we’re sick) and the social policies that define us as a society (ensuring that every individual in our society enjoys equality of rights, how we treat those different to us, how we look after our most needy and vulnerable) to the specific; maternity leave, closing the gender pay gap, reproductive rights, equal marriage, the extent to which the government interferes in our private lives…. you get the picture.

Truthfully — despite what Karl Lagerfeld and his S/S’15 band of Chanel-clad protesters may suggest — it’s certainly not glamorous (and we shouldn’t actually ‘Vote Coco’, obviously), the characters rarely resemble President Bartlet or Sam Seaborn, and most days it feels more like a ruthless grind than a glorious victory. But oh, there is nothing more beautiful than a democracy in which, however briefly, we are all equal participants.

If you do just one thing that matters this week, then have your say at the ballot box. We owe it to the suffragettes and all those who are still yearning for that same right we get to exercise tomorrow.

Love, Miss B xx

Image via Pinterest (from Vogue Korea March 2015)


On What I’ve Been Up To…

Back at the office: Big Ben

Some of you may know that since my trip to the US, I’ve been on a career sabattical. Although, after 3 degrees and a wealth of work experience in that field alone, politics seemed my natural path, I’d always fancied myself as a fashion writer. Deciding that  if I don’t try these things before I’m 30 I might never have the chance again, I began to entertain the idea more and more. So when my previous Westminster job came to a natural end, and all the signs began to point in one direction, I decided to take a few months out to try something different.

And so I came to try the fashion world on for size.

Since August, I’ve been working with the wonderful LibertyLondonGirl* as her Editorial Associate, and dabbling in all manner of fabulous adventures in the world of fashion as a result. I attended the shows of my favourite designers at Fashion Week, met supermodels and icons backstage, come face to face with Anna Dello Russo’s fantastical style, attended the A-list soirees with the fashion glitterati (though secretly, I’m just as happy at home in my pyjamas), had afternoon tea with Lulu Guinness, and met some generally lovely, inspiring and simultaneously talented and fashionable people.

A Fashion Week favourite: Charles Anastase S/S ’11

However, this designer shoe habit doesn’t pay for itself, and I’m realistic enough to know that completely re-establishing oneself in a new field takes a lot of time, effort, and putting in of hard yards. As I’ve becomed too accustomed to the comforts of a regular salary to continue to live off my savings forever, I decided that this is a path I would pursue on the side at a somewhat slower, though no less enthusiatic, pace over the next year or so. And just as I arrived at this conclusion, the stars all seemed to align in my favour, and I had a job offer which was too good to refuse.

Which brings me to why I’ve been a bad blogger the past week. Last week I started my new role and I was so exhausted by having to transform back into a serious political advisor, that I had no energy left for creative thought. But I’m back, invigorated by everything I’ve experienced, and ready to share new loves and experiences with you, my ever lovely readers.

So tell me, have you ever taken a leap of faith or made any drastic life changes yourself?

Love, Miss B xx

* which seemed wonderfully serendipidous; when I first moved to the UK, her blog rapidly became a daily must-read and guided me through the trials and tribulations of becoming an expat.