How to become a Member of Parliament (MP)
Updated 16 August 2023
There are 650 Members of Parliament, or MPs, each tasked with representing their resident's views and concerns in the House of Commons. The role of an MP involves a wide range of skills and responsibilities, and it also includes impressive government benefits and a steady salary. To become a Member of Parliament, you may need to learn where to start and how to be an effective leader. In this article, we discuss how to become an MP, describe what an MP is, list what they do and offer the skills required to be a successful political leader.
Related: A guide to civil service jobs
What is an MP?
MP is an acronym for Member of Parliament, meaning a person chosen to represent the views of a particular area in parliament. To be an MP, you can either be part of a political party or be an independent candidate. Most MPs are part of a political party that shares the same political goals and beliefs.
What does an MP do?
MPs have various duties, the main one being to represent their constituency. Other typical responsibilities include:
getting to know the people they represent and their needs
meeting with members of their constituency to discuss community concerns and issues
attending and raising questions in debates
voting on whether to pass or remove laws
raising questions on behalf of their residents
staying current with national and local news
attending community events and functions
talking and addressing the media
If you're an MP that belongs to a political party in power, the Prime Minister might assign you particular roles. These tasks are in addition to your regular jobs as an MP. For instance, you might be appointed as a government minister to oversee a specific country's area, such as education or health.
How to become an MP
If you're interested in how to become an MP, there are several steps you can take. Some of the common steps include:
1. Check if you qualify to be an MP
Before pursuing a political career, you need to know whether or not you qualify. Fortunately, there aren't many requirements to become an MP. The primary criteria includes being over 18 and being a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, Commonwealth or the UK. Having a degree in law, business, political science or any other related fields is helpful but not a necessity.
Note that you cannot be an MP if you are a judge or a civil servant. Similarly, members of the armed forces and people with bankruptcy and debt relief restrictions aren't allowed to vie for an MP position.
If you're new to politics, you can gain political experience by volunteering. Volunteer work doesn't have to be money or time-consuming. You can spend time with the community, helping them solve issues and handling tasks that you're acquainted with. For example, if you're a lawyer, you could help the community or a charitable organisation with some of their legal cases.
Another significant way you can volunteer is by working for your local politicians' campaigns. Be sure to find a politician that shares the same ideologies as you to learn and gain experience. You can also become an active member of a trade union, participate in student politics or work as a researcher for your current MP.
Related: How to find volunteer work
3. Choose a political party and join
There are various political parties that have different beliefs and systems, but they all work towards benefiting and promoting the country. If you're interested in becoming an MP, it's vital that you decide on the political party you'd like to join. Go through each party's manifesto to understand what each party stands for, then decide on the one that shares your values and beliefs.
After deciding on the party you'd like to join, you may enter the party as a member. Note that proof of commitment is necessary before applying for any elected positions, such as an MP. Depending on the party, you may have to give an annual or monthly contribution towards engaging with other party members, participating in a conference or joining in campaigns.
After spending considerable time as a member of the party, you may express your interest in becoming a Member of Parliament, representing the party. Learn who you can speak to, and when allowed, you may start your training as a candidate. However, this process may differ from one party to another.
5. Become a candidate
To become a formal candidate vying for an MP position, you can make sure you have the following things in order:
references that prove your professional qualifications and capacity
a deposit to submit your nomination papers, which gets refunded if you receive at least five per cent of the total votes cast
nominations from a minimum of ten parliamentary constituents
approval from your political party, backing you up for the position (unless you're independent)
If they approve your candidacy, your team can support you throughout the journey.
Running a campaign is time-consuming and requires a lot of commitment and effort. But, it's one of the most effective ways to secure a political position. So, once you qualify to be a candidate, you can organise a campaigning team, hire a campaign manager and raise funds from donors to facilitate your campaign.
If you're not a candidate yet, you can take that as an opportunity to create rapport with other party members. That way, when your time comes for running, you may have the support of those party members, which is essential in the running for any government post.
7. Stay current with national and local issues
As a political leader, it's valuable to stay current with national and local issues. It's crucial that you be aware of whatever is happening around you and the world. It would be best if you gain in-depth knowledge of political affairs to help your community and constituency. Becoming an MP is a vital step in your political career. But, if you plan to keep advancing in your career and get promotions, you may have to improve your education and skills. Staying engaged and current with political issues can also help you remain relevant in the political field or industry.
What skills are necessary to be a successful politician?
To become a successful politician, you may need to have and improve the following skills:
Politics requires you to stay up to date with everything around you and in the world. To be an excellent MP, you need to be passionate about politics, your community and your country. Passion is what gives you the drive to remain persistent and determined in your quest for justice and equality.
An MP is required to represent the views of their residents. Therefore, you need to have active listening skills when talking to your community to understand their issues and concerns. You also have to communicate your ideas and views to the community and in parliament.
Related: What are communication skills?
An MP is a representative of a constituency. To be an effective leader, you need to be compassionate and empathetic with your community. That way, you can understand their pain and sufferings enough to find a course of action that can benefit all. Compassion is a positive quality that can help you transform your constituency for the better.
The life and work environment of an MP is very public. Everything you do as an MP gets reflected in public. That can generate pressure and fear, but a good politician should be able to remain productive regardless of stress or pressure. Also, as a political leader, you may get criticised once in a while. It's crucial that you be able to work amidst criticism and still deliver excellent results.
As an MP, you're a leader, and many people look up to you for solutions. It's crucial that you be confident in your ideas and opinions. When speaking, portray confidence in the way you address the crowd so that they can have trust in your enthusiasm to deliver. Otherwise, if your residents can sense a feeling of fear or intimidation, they may not have any hope of solving their issues.
Sometimes, you may have to fight for a specific law to get passed in parliament to benefit your community. It's best that you remain persistent, regardless of the challenges you face. Keep in mind that nothing comes easy and that your community relies on you to solve their issues. Remain persistent and determined until you get a beneficial course of action.
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