Getting to Know You: Lisa Cameron
The SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow shares her memories of discovering the East Kilbride music scene, how being in the public eye can turn nasty and how, even as a psychologist, she’s just not ready to face some of her own fears.
What were you like at school?
I was quite studious and a bit of a nerd but in fifth year I got really into music. In East Kilbride there was the Jesus and Mary Chain and a lot of gothic bands and I was quite into that kind of music. I changed at that point. I always wanted to go to university – no one in my family had been – so there was always an expectation that I’d balance it all and I did.
Before entering politics you worked as a clinical psychologist – had that always been your ambition?
No, I went to university to study English with psychology and I had a lovely few years reading about the Romantic poets, but then I started to think about what I might want to do as a job. People were saying ‘if you’re doing English you could be a teacher’ but I didn’t envision myself doing that. I’d always been interested in people so I did psychology as single honours so I could go on to do clinical psychology.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
I’ve had dinner with my dream dinner date – Hugh Grant. I chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability and one of the members is Baroness Hollins. She’s a psychiatrist who writes non-verbal books for people with learning disabilities – Hugh Grant is the co-author of some of those books and she invited me to a dinner he was at. He was very charming and I was star struck. I went with [fellow SNP MP] Joanna Cherry – it was the first time I’ve seen her very quiet. My next dream dinner date would be Patrick Stewart. I love Star Trek and find him very charismatic, especially when his character says “make it so, number one”.
What’s your greatest fear?
I have a phobia of spiders and snakes. That didn’t work well when I had to do phobia work with people – I would agree with them and say “you’re quite right to be scared”. I had to pass those cases on quite quickly because I realised I wasn’t ready to face my own fears.
What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I had an issue with a stalker. He was in Fathers For Justice and had an issue with government more generally, but he was quite nasty, shouting outside the SNP conference that I was a child abuser. He wasn’t able to see his own child and I was his MP at the time, so he projected that onto me. He also came to surgeries with a loudspeaker, which was frightening. When I worked in psychology I specialised in forensics so I was aware that these things tend to escalate rather than de-escalate and I was surprised that nobody took it seriously to begin with. It took for people in the surgery being terrified – I had to show them all out – for the police to intervene. Online, another guy said he was going to harm my mum, which was really frightening. She had to end up getting security for a while. She was very good about it but it does make you think, what have I done to those that I love and am close to with my career choice? At the same time, that’s what those people want – they want you to leave politics – and I knew that that was the wrong thing to do.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Chocolate. I’ve been trying to lose weight and can’t. It definitely comforts me to eat chocolate, which is not helpful.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My height, probably. I’m only five foot two and I’ve always felt that I should be put in a grow pot. I married someone who is six foot one and I don’t know if that was a psychological thing to try to make sure my kids end up taller than me. It always felt like a drawback at concerts but you learn to adapt and tend to end up at the front of photos or on people’s shoulders at concerts.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’d like to go to the court of Henry the Eighth just to be there and see what it was like. Before there was the parliament the royal court was the parliament of the day and it was really difficult for women at that time. It would be fascinating to see the politics of that at work and how people tried to survive with someone who was so ruthless in charge.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
Keep your integrity. If you don’t agree with something, don’t feel you have to go along with it just to please other people because you’ll end up losing yourself along the way. It’s important when your career ends to feel you’ve achieved something but also that you’ve not compromised yourself. That has been hard in the past.
What skill should every person have?
Emotional intelligence. It’s natural to some people but very unnatural to others. Prime ministers and leaders who have it survive a lot longer than those who don’t. Theresa May did her best and has a lot of integrity but she found it difficult to relate interpersonally.
What was your best holiday ever?
I went to New Orleans on honeymoon and I’d never been anywhere like that before. It really appealed to me with all the voodoo history and the cultural history of America and the south. It was beautiful, cultural, entertaining and with great food all at the same time.