In part 2 of this Supper Club interview, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu talks about staying optimistic about why being a woman and a People's Action Party politician can sometimes be the worst of both worlds.
Q: How has politics changed since you entered the fray in 2006?
It's just tougher to recruit any good candidates, men or women. First of all, expectations of an MP are just higher. In the past, someone who is intelligent and capable, people accept him even if you're not very communicative or extroverted. But these days, constituents also like you to be down-to-earth, friendly, communicative, able to inspire them.
On the other hand, the demands on the candidates in terms of the exposure, the loss of privacy, especially for the family, is more severe now. One MP mentioned that when his child did well and received a prize in school, his friends said, it's because you're an MP's child. It's now become very open, very public and apparent because of social media. Things get amplified and circulated much more easily. There was probably civility and greater respect for each other's privacy in the past.
Q: Does this impact you in real life, or just on social media?
There are moments that my children will allude to me (how it has impacted them). Like when certain policies are not taken well on the ground, I find my children being affected. His friends will give them feedback, make comments, say that your mum is doing this silly thing again. I don't think it's a nice feeling for my children. I don't think you can totally isolate or protect them. I just have to tell them, take it in your stride and be tough about it.
Q:What have you had to give up in this line of work?
I would say the only thing really is personal time. My privacy. It's part of being a public figure and I knew that when I was making the step to contest.
If you don't have a lot of bad habits, it's not a problem. I don't really mind not going to the casino. My vice was to take an afternoon off and go shopping, which I don't have the time to do now. Even if I have time on a weekday, it can sometimes be misunderstood. Actually, immediately after the (2011) elections, that's what happened to me. I had a meeting at 7pm, and I was in Raffles City before that, so I thought I can shop for two hours before my meeting. And a woman actually came up to me and say, oh now you have time to shop ah? At this hour? Like (she was saying) after you're elected, you still have the time? I am a purposeful shopper now. Just go straight to the shop and get what I want. So I'm very outdated on what's the latest trends.
Q: What do you do to unwind?
I'm rather addicted to running now as I've discovered this joy of running overseas. The new cities I go to, if I can find an hour and a half to just run, I enjoy that a lot. I started running before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (where she is Second Minister), but the MFA job allows me to travel a bit more. Running has given me a way of seeing the city. The fact that you are able to run in a different climate, different environment, it's very refreshing. I did a run in Hamburg, around the lake. It was very cold, but very nice, you don't perspire, you don't feel yourself being dragged down by the humidity.
Another time was on my own visit to Hokkaido, near the city. It was raining. I found myself the only person running. It was a very nice feeling, a good experience.
In Singapore, I run in the Botanic Gardens as it's near the MFA building. You do bump into people there, I've met some permanent secretaries running there.
I ran my first 5km when I was 40 years old. I used to hate running. But I started when I was in PSA Singapore to support a charity called Milk Run. My target is now to run 20km the year I turn 50, which is in a few months time.