SINGAPORE – Remember the young woman whose celebration of Kate Spade defined her image in the 2011 General Election campaign? Netizens mocked her ruthlessly.
Three years on, Marine Parade GRC MP Tin Pei Ling said she has not only grown up, but also grown a thicker hide.
Speaking to MyPaper recently at a cafe opposite Parliament House shortly before a sitting, Ms Tin admitted feeling the pressure of having to prove her worth early in her term, given the online excoriation she went through.
“There was that feeling at first. But now that I’ve hit 30, I feel a greater sense of confidence and mission. Now, it’s not about wanting to prove myself, but about doing my best,” said Ms Tin, who celebrated her birthday in December.
Her youth was initially touted as a major strength by the People’s Action Party (PAP) when she was introduced as a candidate. It was supposed to be proof that the party had new blood that could connect with young voters via social media.
But this quickly backfired when photos on her Twitter account went viral, including one in which she posed with a Kate Spade box. Things got worse when she said her biggest regret was not taking her parents to Universal Studios.
The whole experience was “a struggle” and a “baptism of fire”, said Ms Tin. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It was unpleasant and I felt a lot of pressure.”
Since then, she has learnt that “communication is an art”. She also gained perspective when she began work as an MP.
“My reputation was hurt, but that is intangible. There are residents who are struggling to pay the bills. That’s a real problem,” she said.
The full-time MP, who quit her job as a business consultant with Ernst and Young shortly after the election, has kept herself busy. In Parliament, she has raised points on a range of topics, from mental health to Medisave.
On the ground, her team has ramped up programmes focused on the elderly and children from low-income families.
One in three residents in her MacPherson ward is aged above 50, while nearly a quarter of the area’s blocks are either fully or partially filled with rental flats.
The opposition National Solidarity Party has made much of its free tuition scheme in her ward for the past few years. She said pointedly: “Prior to the election, there were already a few free tuition programmes available in the ward.”
On the personal front, Ms Tin is trying to start a family with her husband, civil servant Ng How Yue. She plans to eventually send their children to neighbourhood primary schools.
“I know we say that every school is a good school, but a neighbourhood school can be very diverse. You meet children from other walks of life and learn that life is not always a bed of roses,” said the former pupil of the now-defunct Mei Chin Primary.
The interview ended when Ms Tin headed to Parliament House, where she had arranged lunch for the PAP parliamentarians before the sitting.
This duty used to be handled by Sengkang West MP Lam Pin Min, but the baton was passed to Ms Tin after the election. She said slightly sheepishly: “I guess it’s because I’m the youngest.”