Title: Maiden Speech
Fandom: No Job for a Lady/Doctor Who
Rating: U
Originally posted: 11 September 2007
Summary: Jean Price speaks to a meeting of prospective Labour parliamentary candidates, and provides some particularly helpful advice to one of them.
Disclaimer: All original works are copyright of their respective owners; I lay claim only to this particular story.
Notes: This fic crosses two television series: one quite well known, one far less well known. The less-known series is No Job for a Lady, a mid-1990s Penelope Keith star vehicle that provided some interesting (and occasionally trenchant) commentary on the unique problems of being a female Labour Member of Parliament at a time when that particular combination was far more of a rarity than it is today. As a result, the setting is sometime in the early 1990s -- say, early 1991, well before the 1992 General Election.

Maiden Speech

One of the duties they generally don't tell you about when you become a Labour MP is that you're obligated to 'make the rounds' once in a while, giving pep talks to starry-eyed young hopefuls who've been selected as prospective candidates for seats they haven't a Liberal's chance in Hell of winning. It's doubly important and doubly depressing if you're a woman Labour MP, because then the pep talks consist of ten minutes' mumbling to yourself in a damp assembly room while the same starry-eyed young hopefuls stare at you as if they're wondering how on earth you manage to conceal your second head.

It hadn't taken much for Jean to start drafting possible ways to advertise her pep talks. Most of them involved lurid playbills for travelling sideshows, with Jean Price MP: Labour's Wild Woman Warrior as the headline performance. (She'd invited Ken to appear on one, promising him that she'd bill him as 'Mad Ken Millar: The Not-So-Wee Scotsman', but he'd started throwing crumpled-up Early Day Motion notices at her and she'd had to withdraw the invitation.) Regardless, anything would be better than the limp leaflets that most of the prospectives were clutching in the assembly room this evening.

Her talk went over well, regardless. Which meant that no one got up and left in the middle of it, though it was possible that the promise of tea and biscuits afterwards was what kept them all in their seats. But they gave her a round of applause that was slightly warmer than dutiful, and once she'd collected her tea and biscuits, the prospectives seemed genuinely friendly. Still starry-eyed, of course, but that was only to be expected. It was touching, in a way.

Somehow, in the course of shaking hands and juggling biscuits, she'd ended up boxed into a corner by one particular hopeful. A woman, past the blush of youth but quickly settling into that sensible middle-class matron image that often seemed safe to marginal voters. (That image had certainly worked for one middle-class matron, to Jean's recollection.) But there was no point in looking at her twice unless she had something to draw you in, and as Jean saw it the only person who'd look twice at this woman would be the barman who handed her a good stiff drink to settle her nerves.

Perhaps it was time to put her on the spot, then. Show her what it really meant to be an MP.

'Right,' she said, cutting off the woman's babbling about something related to Clause Four. 'Show me how you go about canvassing.' She mimed opening a door just a crack, as if she were a pensioner keeping the chain on as she peered out at a caller. 'Yes?'

The woman blinked, a little flustered, as she tried to follow Jean's lead. 'Oh, er, hello! I'm the prospective MP for -- '

'No, no, no!'

The woman jumped back about a foot, and Jean sighed.

'No, that won't do at all,' she said, shaking her head. 'Look, by that point I've just slammed the door in your face and I'm about to set the cats on you.'

The woman looked crestfallen. 'Oh....'

'First off, tell them who you are. You've got to say it like you mean it. Like you are it.'

'Like I...mean it?' The woman blinked, pushing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes.

'Yes, like you mean it,' Jean said briskly. 'Come on, pretend I've just opened the door. Who are you?'

More prepared this time, the woman straightened her shoulders and tried again. 'My name is Ms -- '

'Fewer words, more confidence!' Jean folded her arms across her chest. 'Honestly, the voters like a bit of confidence -- it makes them feel like they're not voting for a damp dishcloth. If they wanted a damp dishcloth for an MP, they'd vote Green. So keep it short, all in one breath, say it like you are it, and get it all out before they can close that door.' She fixed the younger woman with a keen, appraising eye. 'Now, one more time: who are you?'

This time, the response was immediate and the delivery was as fast as a machine-gun. 'Harriet Jones, prospective MP, Flydale North!'

Jean, true to form, confined her approval to a nod and a brief smile. 'Better. But keep working on it.'

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