Kipp is a third-year Politics and International Relations student at Newcastle University and a visiting student at the University of Oxford and the Global Priorities Institute. He is interested in policy and has published co-authored research on the UK’s commitments to the 2030 SDGs. As a Cohort Intern on the ‘UK/US Global Justice and Democracy Study Tour’, he was selected to lead a group of ten students to engage with academics, policymakers, and business leaders in response to democratic backsliding in the US and UK at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Kipp is excited to be a part of the Patchwork Masterclass programme to continue learning about political leadership and to engage with peers with a breadth of experience across political life. 

Lord Blunkett, Member of the House of Lords and previous veteran of the Commons, recently joined the ‘Political Fish’ cohort to deliver a Masterclass on British Politics. His candid and warm approach to providing valuable insights into his workings in local and national government all while overcoming significant barriers, provided the cohort with an inspirational discussion with one of the Labour Party’s most formidable MPs. 

Blind since birth and born in one of Sheffield’s most deprived areas, Lord Blunkett’s journey to the position of Home Secretary and beyond has been exceptional in all senses of the word. However, these facts have not defined him. Instead, he can be much more aptly described as a dedicated public office holder, committed to serving his constituents and the wider nation. Lord Blunkett’s work as Education and Employment Secretary saw the introduction of the Sure Start scheme ensuring a holistic approach to supporting preschool children with early life and the creation of the Disability Rights Commission. Lord Blunkett continues to impact British political life and discourse through his current roles as a Peer and as a Professor of Politics in Practice at the University of Sheffield. He truly is as Lord David Cameron once described him a “remarkable man” and gave the ‘Political Fish’ cohort an excellent leader to hear and learn from. 

The Masterclass, hosted in a committee room in the House of Lords, quickly filled with eager Patchworkers who were promptly joined by Lord Blunkett and his guide dog. His quick jokes and straight-talking communication style quickly eased formalities and we got immediately into discussing questions regarding his personal and professional development. Discussions of the intricacies of local governments ensued including reflections on the importance of having skin in the game and being a part of the day-to-day functioning of government. The cohort was impressed by the depth of discussion delving into the differences between getting involved with local and national government, approaching elected positions and important practical steps to advance these goals. It was particularly interesting to reflect on discussions about the importance of understanding policy delivery when creating and advocating for policy and how getting involved at a local level can aid this. 

We then pivoted to a conversation concerning a Peer’s daily schedule and were impressed to hear the breadth of engagements between government, civil society representatives and other stakeholders. It was notable to hear once more about the vital skill of developing and maintaining relationships, a key theme we have discussed throughout this year’s programme. 

We concluded with an open question and answer session; here, Lord Blunkett’s insightful anecdotes and comparisons between various points of his life inspired us to remain hopeful despite contemporary political concerns and to play an active role in creating solutions. Lord Blunkett’s battle through adversity, steadfast public service, and his warm and optimistic approach to life is an inspiration for all, and particularly for those who may live with disabilities – politics can and should be a place for all.

In sum, Lord Blunkett’s Patchwork Masterclass session inspired us all with a direct call for action. Although imperative to hear those who are negative and cynical about contemporary affairs, our discussion made it clear that this should not thwart our efforts to continue to influence local and national communities with seeds (even if only small) of hope and change. The session left us all motivated to #GetInvolved and to do so with conscious thought for the inclusion of all in society. 

~ Kipp Mann Benn, 2023 Masterclass Programme Participant