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10 March 2021

Anne Marie Rafferty Q&A: “I consider myself a stem-cell Brownite“

The president of the Royal College of Nursing on her respect for Gordon Brown, nurses’ pay, and why Mastermind needs a rebrand. 

By New Statesman

Anne Marie Rafferty was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, in 1958. She is the president of the Royal College of Nursing and an academic specialising in health services.

What’s your earliest memory?

Standing in my cot and looking over at the bed on the other side of the room and thinking, “How can I get there?”

Who are your heroes?

My childhood hero was Julie Andrews; the first film I saw on the big screen was The Sound of Music. I guess my gay gene kicked in pretty early! Now I admire Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia. She’s chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College and I’m struck by the generosity of her style: it’s open. She’s a role model for us getting a female prime minister for Labour in the UK.

What book last changed your thinking?

I used to say, “Novels are for people who have far too much time on their hands.” But I reread Mrs Dalloway recently and it made me discover the power of novels.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Gordon Brown. I admire his intellect and titanic grasp of policy. I consider myself a stem-cell Brownite.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Scottish sweeties circa 1965-75. As you can tell from the condition of my teeth, I ate far too many sweeties as a child. I also worked in my best friend’s dad’s shop and I had a taxonomy of sweeties off by heart. Clydebank toffees were my favourite. But I think it’s about time we rebranded the show to Mistressmind – don’t you think?

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The night the Berlin Wall came down. I’d like to feel the sense of can-do change and challenge, that frisson and thrill.

What TV show could you not live without?

The Andrew Marr Show. I love Marr’s interrogatory interview style: he doesn’t let people off the hook.

Who would paint your portrait?

An up-and-coming artist in need of some dosh; a sparky wee talent who might need a little leg up the ladder.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Follow your gut.”

What’s currently bugging you?

Nurses’ pay. It’s bugging me and we’re going to have to keep bugging the government until we get our way.

What single thing would make your life better?

A bicycle pump. I would be lost without my bike because my gorgeous classic vintage Ford Fiesta was stolen at the beginning of lockdown. It’s about time I got a pump.

When were you happiest?

Holidaying in a fisherman’s cottage by the Solway Firth in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s a place that represented complete calm and peace.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

An actor. I adore Fiona Shaw. I admire acting ability. In fact, I think nursing is a performance art: it’s about talking to people in a way they understand.

Are we all doomed?

Only if we don’t pay attention to and invest in nursing in a sustainable manner for the future. Our future is imperilled if we don’t do that. If nurses fall over, the health service falls over, too. 


Find out more about the Royal College of Nursing’s Fair Pay for Nursing Campaign at

[see also: Anne Boden Q&A: “I come from a long line of strong, determined women”]

This article appears in the 10 Mar 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Grief nation