The Power of Positivity: A Masterclass with Dr Mark Pack

Eliza (she/her) is a third-year Geopolitics student at the University of Edinburgh. She grew up in Glasgow, where she volunteered at her local foodbank and supported various charities such as Birth, Baby and Beyond and Cash for Kids. She is currently an ambassador for Give Blood 4 Good and the Wellbeing and Inclusion Officer for the Edinburgh University Swimming and Water Polo Club. She is deeply interested in matters surrounding reproductive health, mental well-being, and international development. Eliza joined the Patchwork Masterclass Programme to grow her network, acquire a deeper understanding of public affairs, and develop the skills that will enable her to make a real impact within politics and the third sector.

Recently, it seems as though scandal has come to define politics. Yet, as Dr Mark Pack shared his experiences with us it was clear that British politics is in fact a space for meaningful action and positive change. While describing how he found his way within the political realm and offering guidance for those of us embarking on a similar journey, Dr Pack’s Masterclass was marked with an inherent sense of optimism which left me feeling energised.

The challenges that Dr Pack faced while trying to enter politics were incredibly relatable. Our discussion began with noting that individuals with an Oxbridge education benefit from a ready-made network of political contacts. Without this background, Dr Pack had to find another way to get on to the political ladder, building his own connections through leafletting and office admin jobs at Lib Dem HQ. Given his current success as a writer, podcaster, guest lecturer, and President of the Liberal Democrats, it is evident that engaging in volunteering can lead to extraordinary opportunities within politics. I joined the Patchwork programme due to a similar lack of connections and uncertainty about how to pursue a political career. As a result of Dr Pack’s Masterclass, I now feel confident that I can gain vital experience at a grassroots level, cultivate my own network, and truly excel. Hearing about his journey was encouraging and refreshing, demonstrating that there is more than one route into politics and that a rich network can be crafted from scratch with the right amount of effort and passion.

Beyond the process of entering politics, Dr Pack provided us with valuable advice for when we are fully immersed in it. What stood out to me was the emphasis he placed on kindness, positivity, and embracing what makes you different. Throughout his presidency campaign, Dr Pack refrained from insulting his opponents and rather highlighted his personal strengths such as his non-parliamentarian status. His commitment to building and sustaining good relationships is inspiring, and I believe politics needs more of this respect and professionalism. For Dr Pack, there is so much value in being a nice person and he urged us to hold on to kind habits even in the whirlwind world of politics – a thank you card or a letter of condolence can go a long way. He also encouraged us to recognise our small achievements. Though politics often involves chasing ambitious and intimidating targets, small wins along the way are just as important. Local-level initiatives such as the installation of a wheelchair ramp hold significant meaning and impact. As I am about to take on my first job in politics doing casework this summer, it was exciting to hear how rewarding it is to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Dr Pack’s Masterclass was highly motivating. Towards the end of the session our final discussion point really left an impression on me, which focused on how politics still plays out whether you choose to get involved or not. Following each general election, 650 members will be elected to the House of Commons no matter what. The important question is, do you want good people to be at the heart of it all? This confirmed just how much I want to participate in British politics and fight for the causes that matter to me. As the session came to a close, Dr Pack looked around the room and told us that he feels our future is in safe hands. His Masterclass left us all smiling and I now feel ready to enter the political arena with optimism, to affect change both great and small.

Maliha is a student of Politics and International Relations with a deep passion for politics and societal issues. She is the host of a podcast and blog, where she shares her insights and analysis on current political affairs. With her strong academic background and dedication to exploring complex topics, Maliha brings a fresh perspective to the world of politics. Her expertise and enthusiasm make her a valuable asset in fostering meaningful discussions and promoting informed opinions.

Before this Masterclass, I had not come across Dr. Pack’s work, so I started researching. I then learnt that he is the current President of the Liberal Democrats. This is when I became more excited about the discussion since I knew I’d be learning about the connections between academic politics and mainstream politics – something I had never seen before. The Masterclass with Dr. Mark Pack was incredibly informative, and not only did he provide insights from his long political career, but also gave practical advice that I want to follow in my own profession.

The Masterclass emphasised the significance of efficient communication, and the importance of being precise, succinct, and captivating in all communications. We discussed how this influenced the speaker’s political career, particularly his time as Campaign Manager for the Hornsey & Wood Green constituency. Inspired by this, I intend to work on improving my communication skills, both written and verbal, as I believe they will be critical in my career advancement. I plan on doing this by continuing to write blogs and articles in different tones and attending events that are out of my comfort zone.

Another valuable insight was the significance of networking and making connections. Dr. Pack’s journey from working behind the scenes in Parliament to becoming the President of the Liberal Democrats is a testament to this. He highlighted the importance of networking and building relationships in any professional field. Taking this to heart, I aim to actively seek out networking opportunities and cultivate meaningful relationships in my professional sphere. I am hoping to achieve this by attending local party meetings in my area and keep pushing for my ideas despite an age boundary.

Dr. Pack’s polling skills were another standout feature of the Masterclass. I was particularly intrigued by his in-depth comprehension and smart use of statistics. He demonstrated how data-driven decisions may result in more effective tactics and improved outcomes. Given the growing relevance of data today, I intend to devote time to strengthening my data analysis skills and implementing data-driven decision-making into my profession by studying various resources on statistical techniques specifically in political research and policy. This can further be useful for my upcoming dissertation.

Finally, Dr Pack’s initiative to broadcast the podcast “Never Mind the Bar Charts” demonstrated the value of lifelong learning and knowledge sharing. His commitment to educating others about political methods and trends is inspiring. Given this, I intend to seek out opportunities to contribute my expertise and experiences, either through writing or speaking engagements. This has pushed me to continue with my own podcast, and to share as much knowledge and awareness as possible. 

To summarise, our Masterclass with Dr. Mark Pack was a rewarding experience that provided me with excellent insights and concrete takeaways. I am delighted to apply the principles learnt in my upcoming career and anticipate the beneficial impact they will make.