Hana is currently a final-year Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) student at the University of Manchester. She has a special interest in policy research and international relations. With a great passion for influencing social change, Hana volunteered and collaborated with various refugee-based organizations both in Manchester and abroad. Previously, Hana served as the Executive Director of The Peterloo Institute—Manchester’s first student-run think tank— through which she took it upon herself to increase student voice and participation in policymaking through evidence-based research.

On April 25th 2023, I had the honor of chairing a Masterclass session with the Rt. Honorable Penny Mordaunt alongside my colleagues from ‘The Sustainables’ cohort at Patchwork. 

The Right Honorable Penny Mordaunt is the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. To young people embarking on their journey into the world of politics, her professional career and achievements are a true inspiration—from being the first of her family to go to university to the first woman holding the position of Minister of Armed Forces and, more recently, being the first woman to serve as Secretary of State for Defense. The Masterclass session was an invaluable opportunity to gain insights into her substantial political career and life experiences. 

Why pursue politics?

Being born and raised in Portsmouth, Ms. Mordaunt’s political career was driven by her desire to give back to her community. The essence of politics is about communication and making people feel understood. It is about understanding that you have an impact on people’s lives and thus an obligation to live up to their trust. 

In politics, not only is understanding others crucial, but so is understanding yourself and your own sense of purpose. It is often too easy to get caught up in pursuing a goal, one after the other, without pausing and reflecting on why you are doing it. In our current fast-paced environment, it is ever so important to take a few steps back at times and ask yourself ‘why?’. Knowing the purpose behind your actions and reminding yourself of the priorities and values you live and work by helps realign your sense of direction and drive you forward.

On Self Confidence: What does it take to pursue a career in politics?

Having held several ministerial positions with different duties over her career, Ms. Mordaunt holds an impressively wide-reaching skillset. For a political career, there is no single ‘winning’ skill that you need to acquire, rather it is about being a jack of all trades.  As there is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ be it in Parliament, government or even journalism, having transferable skills and high adaptability is very crucial. This reinforces the fact that there is no one size fits all path to a successful political career; what matters is having enough trust and confidence in your abilities and your potential to make a true impact.

Throughout the Masterclasses and skills sessions I’ve attended with my cohort, including this Masterclass, the topic of struggling with self confidence always made an appearance. Having substantial achievements in your professional career and personal life does not shield you from experiencing periods of low self esteem. However, the good news is: confidence is a learned skill and so is self-doubt, sabotage, and the constant fear of ‘not doing or being enough’. Your journey to becoming more confident in your abilities and capabilities will neither be perfect nor easy. So, it’s important to recognise the progress you are making (even if small) and more importantly, allow yourself to make mistakes. Perhaps, the biggest proof that this is indeed true is my chairing experience of the Masterclass with the Rt. Hon. Penny Mordaunt, which is a reminder that you don’t need to know everything to be able to achieve great things. 

I’m looking forward to future Masterclasses and learning more from my exceptional colleagues at Patchwork.

Hana Al-Wakeel, 2023 Masterclass Programme Participant