There are multi-tasking mamas, and then there are multi-tasking mamas with their names on our ballot boxes. Louise Rountree is one of the latter. A former lawyer and lobbyist, Louise is mum to three brilliant boys, and is now in the running to become an MP as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Chelsea and Fulham. Not only a good friend but also an inspiration to us both, we caught up with this true super woman to pick her brains about politics, political parties, mummyhood and life.
NSAMM: With three kids and running as a parliamentary candidate for Chelsea and Fulham, surely you have enough on your plate? How do you manage to juggle it all?
I am not juggling it at all! This image that I am baking a cake with one hand, holding a baby in another all whilst being on the phone to Emmanuel Macron is just wrong, and the idea that to be a successful woman you have to do all of this, is what puts women under so much pressure. My children have hardly seen me since the snap general election was called. Its really hard and you pay a price.
Women are their own worst critics- we place ridiculously high expectations on ourselves and constantly feel we should or could do better. My 7 year old asked me the other day ‘do you love politics more than us?’ and my heart sank. I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with my children, husband, or friends at the moment. But the good thing about a snap General Election is it’s only a couple of months (and well timed, if I am elected MP, to come shortly before a long Parliamentary summer recess!)
I was at a debate the other day and a women asked me whether it was true that I had a two year old at home. I said yes, and her reply was ” Shame on you – you should be at home with your baby, and not out campaigning.” It made me think a lot. Women, for decades, have fought for freedom of choice. A good friend of mine went back to work as a lawyer after having her first child, in a job that everyone thought was incredible and, the truth was that she was miserable, and felt she couldn’t admit it to anyone. After I had my first child, I was at home and desperate to go back to work, and felt I couldn’t tell anyone that I wasn’t happy at home with a baby, whilst my husband carried on working. The point isn’t what you do or don’t agree with – the point is that we all have a choice, and are very lucky to have choice. Women need to allow other women to exercise that choice and not judge each other. We need to support each other.
NSAMM: Why did you choose the Liberal Democrats as your party when your family were all Conservatives?
I chose the Lib Dems because they are by far the most steadfast in their pro-European stance and they understand that to have a strong economy, you must have strong public services. But, most importantly, they are by far the party with the most modern, international, environmentally daring vision for Britain. They seem to be the party of the future, and the other parties seem stuck in the past.
NSAMM: You are clearly Remain- what is the ideal situation for us now? That we have a referendum on the deal of Brexit?
I would have liked us to Remain, but I don’t want to have another in/out referendum. What I do want is for the people to have a say on our final Brexit deal, which wont be for another few years. This isn’t something that politicians would want to impose on people – this is something that will come from the people. I think there will be a huge groundswell of movement and calls for an extra vote, because we got to vote on leaving, but, crucially, not on how.
NSAMM: Since the general election was called, you have been relentlessly knocking on doors every single day without fail. What surprises you most about what people say to you whist door knocking?
As a woman I am constantly surprised by people saying I look too young. The truth is that I am 41, started my career as a lawyer nearly 20 years ago and have three children. The other surprising thing is when people say that I don’t have to talk to them, so I immediately think they are going to vote Conservative. They then proceed to tell me that they are going to vote for me – it’s very exciting!
Do the children help you campaign?
My oldest two like door knocking. When I asked them why, one said ‘because you get to see inside people’s houses’. It’s a bit early for the 2 year old – although, the other day as I was heading out the front door, he waddled over and grabbed my yellow rosette (which I had forgotten). I’m not sure if I was more touched, or concerned, that he saw my campaign rosette as being part of my uniform.
NSAMM: What have you learnt from door knocking?
I have learnt that we all make generalisations about voters – you think Labour voters care about public services and that Conservative voters care about keeping as much of their money and assets as they can. These assumptions are simply not true. You would be surprised at just how liberal Conservatives are, and, you would be surprised at how much Labour voters want a strong economy and strong business. So, I would say the the cliches don’t really apply, and that people vote for the person not the policies.
NSAMM: So what made you decide to go into politics?
Because there is nobody around representing voters like me. I am a centrist, international pro-European, and I feel like no parties in my area represent that view. 70% of people in Chelsea and Fulham voted Remain, and these people need to be represented to have a voice. Besides, if I hadn’t become a Parliamentary Candidate – especially given all the uncertainty ahead and tough decisions that need to be made – I’d have regretted it forever.