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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > October 2017 > Dropped out, tuned in

Dropped out, tuned in

The Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, explains Jennifer Williams, is an increasingly rare Labour MP, who doesn’t just talk about social mobility—but embodies it

It says something about the modern Labour Party that one of Angela Rayner’s most unusual—and so best-known—attributes is her working- class back-story. Perhaps it says even more that in response to her rapid rise, to the point where she is now being tipped for the top job, some fellow Labour MPs have warned her to tone it down.

“I remember colleagues saying to me ‘it’s great you say so much about your back-story, but I wouldn’t do it too much, because it can prevent you from being a leader,’” says the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne. “Or, ‘it’s really good that she’s got a good backstory but it doesn’t really qualify her to be Education Secretary.’ So it does cloud people’s judgment. But it can also help you—and you can use it to your advantage.” Indeed. The 37-year-old has had a remarkable last year or two, and for that matter—in the context of today’s professionalised politics—a remarkable life. Born in 1980, Rayner grew up on a council estate in Stockport, leaving school with no qualifications and falling pregnant at 16 and having to fend for herself and her child. (“I know what it’s like to be hungry,” points out the now mother-of-three. “It’s not an academic statistic for me.”)

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In Prospect’s October issue: Andrew Adonis, Steve Richards, Gaby Hinsliff, Rachel Sylvester and Jennifer Williams look at the idea that leadership is the only thing that matters when it comes to elections. Adonis leads the cover package arguing exactly that point and outlining his ratings of the leaders who have competed every election in the UK and the United States since 1944—Richards offers a rebuttal. Hinsliff, Sylvester and Williams profile three potential leaders in waiting—Amber Rudd, Jo Swinson and Angela Rayner. Elsewhere in the issue we map out the potential road the UK might travel down to stay in the European Union and explore the relationship between UN Secretary General António Guterres and Donald Trump as the two prepare to meet at the UN. Also in this issue: Philip Collins on the similarities between Britain’s Brexiteers and the Gaullists of yesteryear, John Bercow explains how parliament could function better and our “View from” comes from Nairobi, where the recent election result has been annulled.
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