Danny Chambers- RCVS Councillor & Parlimentary Candidate for the Lib Dems
RCVS Councillor & Parlimentary Candidate at a glance
None, unless I get selected as MP for North Cornwall
Around 70 per week
Flexible but you need to put in as much as you possibly can
Being of moderate fitness
Lots of driving, mostly locally but some national travel
Love working with people, passionate about making change, lots of energy!
Being able to prioritise, maintaining optimism, being happy with unpredictability
compassion, integrity, determination
What were your first career steps and how did that work out?
My intercalated MSc in Infectious Disease Control was one of the biggest influences on my career and outlook. This led me to working in India on rabies control projects and working horse projects, in Iraq on a livestock improvement programme, in Morocco with SPANA for a month, and in Gambia on a cattle trypanosomiasis project. However, most of my 'proper jobs' have been in mixed/small and equine practice throughout the UK. Before moving back to Cornwall to stand for Parliament I spent 2 years working at Bristol Vet School, party in equine practice and partly in the marketing department.
So how did you decide to become a vet focusing on politics?
I passionately believe that we need more scientists and engineers in Parliament- not just for their expertise but for how the process and source information, how they engage in constructive debate and come to evidence based decisions. The World Health Organisation has stated the top threats to Global Public Health include Climate Change, Antimicrobial Resistance, Risk of a Global Pandemic and vaccine hesitancy. These are all issues that vets and scientists understand are a priority - politicians can't see past the next election. How many politicians understand the difference between a bacteria and a virus? Yet they're making decisions on AMR. I came to the realisation that politics is run by the people who show up. So I decided to show up!
What did you need to do to get into this career path?
All people wishing to stand as a Parliamentary Candidate need to pass an approval day run by the Lib Dems- written tests, interview by assessor, mock media interviews and group problem solving. If you pass this you are eligible to apply when a local party advertises a vacancy for a Parliamentary Candidate. I applied for the North Cornwall Constituency. The candidates are then interviewed and shortlisted by the local party officers. 5 of us made the shortlist. There was then a month of campaigning among local party members (leaflets, phone calls, visits, social media) which culminated in a hustings where all the candidates gave a 10 minute speech and then took part in a Question Time style panel. The members then voted for who they wanted to be their candidate.
I came to the realisation that politics is run by the people who show up. So I decided to show up!
Were there any barriers to entry and how did you overcome them?
I had no experience of local or national politics. So in the 2017 general election I took a month off work and walked into my local Lib Dem office and joined the campaign. I absolutely loved the excitement of the huge team all working together to get our candidate over the line. There were dozens of people knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, running phone banks, putting up posters and stakeboards in fields, organising press releases and running social media, all being co-ordinated from the team in the office. I knew then that this was something I wanted to be a part of. Sally Burnell who works at the British Veterinary Association suggested I should join her at the Lib Dem conference that year. I had never attended a conference before, and wasn't sure what to expect. But I went along and met an MP who is the Lib Dem Chief Whip called Alistair Carmichael. We had a lot to chat about because his wife is a vet. We became friends and he has been a huge influence and mentor, and is hugely helpful supporting me in my current position.
What are the best bits about your current role and are there any downsides?
Best bits: I love unpredictability- I get bored by routine. This is why I enjoy emergency veterinary work. I love that at very short notice you end up meeting very interesting people and experience a huge variety of activities. One week I spoke at a meeting of 80 Peers in the House of Lords, and the next I climbed up a local wind turbine with the Former Energy Minister which was a brilliant experience!
Worst bits: I have taken a huge pay cut (now working 2 days a week as a vet in order to focus on politics). I am starting to spend the money I was saving to put towards a house deposit. We need to quickly recruit a lot of volunteers and raise a lot of funds which means inspiring and motivating a lot of people to give up their time for free. Like being a vet, the hours are long, you can be very tired, but you need to look positive and upbeat all the time.
Could you give us an overview of a typical day/tasks?
I'm now working 2 days a week in practice and the other 5 days I am working on getting our political campaign off the ground. There are regular, routine tasks we are door knocking 3 nights a week and at weekends as we need to be getting 1000 contacts a month. However a lot of what we do is very unpredictable- just this weekend we had 48 hours notice that Jo Swinson, our new party leader, was visiting. We had to prepare a venue and itinerary, inform local members, contact the regional media, prepare a speech for me to deliver. We managed to pull it off and ended up leading on the regional BBC News last night.
What sort of person would thrive in this career path?
One of my main motivators (aside from being able to hugely influence animal welfare) is dealing with inequality and poverty in North Cornwall - there are very high levels of poverty in my constituency. 40% of children in two of our local towns are technically living in poverty. Schools in North Cornwall receive £209 pounds less funding per pupil than the national average. And for decades politicians have been ignoring the biggest issue of our age- preventing irreversible climate change. Currently the RCVS and BVA are discussing diversity - it is concerning that parental income and not intelligence is the most significant indicator as to whether a child will attend university or not. If you're born in a poor socio-economic postcode (and North Cornwall has 2 of the ten most deprived postcodes in the country) you are never going to reach your educational and vocational potential, which is sad for the individual and a loss to the general economy. These issues really motivate me to stand to make a change. If you're considering standing you need to feel passionate about making a difference, because when you're designing leaflets at 1am, or practicing a speech at 6am, or miserably looking at your bank account declining, you need to remember why you're in this situation.
Politics is run by the people who show up. It may as well be you.
What advice would you give to someone becoming an politican?
Do what makes you feel fulfilled. Whether it pays well or not. It will make you excited to get up in the morning.
Ensure you know which political party you actually support - if you bother to read the manifestos you often find that the party you think you align with does not align with your personal values! Get involved in a general election campaign, either for your local party but ideally for a target seat (like North Cornwall) because it is more exciting and energetic!) This will give you an insight into what is involved. Network, it's all about who you know!
Check out one of Danny’s fave TED talks and frequent source of inspiration by Hans Rosling here