Politics for Change: Reflections on Zack Polanski AM’s Masterclass

Emily is an undergraduate student at the University of Nottingham studying Liberal Arts BA with a Major in Politics. Alongside her studies, she is an incoming summer 2024 intern at Kekst CNC, a Student Ambassador for It’s a Penalty – an anti-modern slavery charity, works as a Communications Officer for the international student think tank – STEAR and is the President of the University of Nottingham politics society. Emily found out about Patchwork through completing their political internship last summer and is aspiring to go into political consultancy and communications. Emily is passionate about politics because she sees it as a means to help people and make a difference, particularly regarding issues that face women. She hopes that the programme will give her the skills to effectively contribute to society.

‘I am so excited to be here’—the words of the very busy Deputy Party Leader of the Greens, and London Assembly member. Despite having a packed calendar, as expected of any political professional during the pre-general election period, Mr Polanski assured us of his delight at sitting down with us on the eve of his party’s manifesto launch. Sitting just outside ‘London’s living room’, I think it is fair to say we all felt immediately welcomed into what would become a fruitful discussion about his personal journey into politics, how his personal experiences have affected him and the Green Party.

Inevitably, this Masterclass was timely coming up to the General Election. Particularly as a group of young voters, for many it is their first time in the voting booth and are feeling conflicted over what to tick at the ballot box. Mr Polanski’s Masterclass provided a much-needed discussion on the role of third parties in the British political system.

The discussion began with Mr Polanski’s journey into politics, which is a far cry from the stereotypical route many politicians take. From growing up in Salford, shedding light on his experience as a member of the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities, to being educated in Wales and the United States. Mr Polanski found himself with a creative background in immersive theatre, where he was indifferent to political conversation. Naturally, it is curious to anyone how Mr Polanski became Deputy Leader of the Green Party, and a member of the London Assembly. If anything was clear, the influence of his background is what made Mr Polanski’s approach to politics unique and above all, refreshing.

Mr Polanski spoke on topics regarding the Green Party, grassroots politics and his personal professional development within politics. All of which, painted a picture of a politics that is not as dominant in mainstream media, but, Mr Polanski’s words covered issues that underscore every voter’s daily life. Equally, Zack Polanski highlighted a valuable lesson from his own personal journey, citing when he chose to move from the Liberal Democrats to the Green Party. He emphasised the importance of being authentic, sticking by principles and acknowledging that we should embrace that politics and opinions evolve inevitably as part of personal lived experiences. It is important to open ourselves up to diverse opportunities, encouraging the broadening of discourse and acknowledge that issues in public arena change in urgency. Embracing change and connecting with others were key takeaways from this message.

This was thematically tied up with the role of smaller parties in our political system. There is no doubt that anyone politically in tune is aware of the rise of the Greens, but also other smaller parties in our political system, at all levels of our democracy. Mr Polanski stressed how this change in the political landscape reinforces how we have the ability, within our democracy, to broaden the discourse and diversify politics. It is key to seize opportunities to make change. Whether this is at the ballot box, joining a political party or working with a pressure group or charity; Mr Polanski’s words inspired our cohort over the power our voice can have in our political system if we seize these opportunities. 

Zack Polanski’s Masterclass provided an enlivening perspective on politics. It left us all feeling optimistic. Empowered.  It reminded us of the true power our voices can have in our political system. It is easy to get caught up with the big issues and the big parties, as only expected from the echo chambers that fill our social media feeds and headline the news. Yet, Zack Polanski’s Masterclass prompted us to remember that politics is about us, and our future. Reinforcing how we have the power to make tomorrow better for every individual. These wise words from Mr Polanski can be partly attributed to his colourful and social background but is true to say his advice was grounding. Politics is about understanding the power of your voice and using it to make change. Echoing many of the core values here at the Patchwork Foundation.