N.B. This post comes from my first intern, Yana, whom I asked to reflect on her Parliamentary internship.
Having spent the past few months as an intern in the House of Commons, I would say I have experienced a fair share. Of course there were some good bits, some not so good, but I can definitely say that it has provided me with a great grasp of the ins and outs of Parliament and taught me a few lessons along the way.
Firstly, I would say there is a dramatic difference between what MPs are perceived to be doing and what they are actually doing. Part of me was expecting to come into the office and see them scheming about just how they can spend more of the taxpayer’s hard earned cash…
The reality, however, was far from that. I was taken to the office, 3m x 5m, which consisted of two desks and two filing cabinets. Unfortunately, we weren’t one of the lucky ones to get a window and had to console ourselves with a skylight. Steve spends barely any time in his office, due to his hectic schedule, and anyone who has ever tried to get a meeting with him will understand that it is extremely difficult: he is in meetings morning ‘til night.
In a few short weeks, the office had to help Steve prepare for a Ten Minute Rule Bill; an Adjournment Debate for a constituent; an Education debate in Buckinghamshire; a welfare reform speech; running an All-Party Parliamentary Group; helping to organise the 1922 Sub-committee on Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development; scrutinising the Freedom Bill in Committee; and serving on the Transport Committee. And that does not even scratch the surface of the all the constituent case work, constituency correspondence, his weekly surgeries in Wycombe and all the local events he attends.
Anyone who thinks MPs are not value for money should read Steve’s recent blog post.
One of the most significant discoveries I have made has been the public’s general political apathy. I can’t help but feel that many have given up on politics because they are somewhat disenchanted with the whole political process.
Instead of genuine participation, what we mostly see is pro-forma national campaign emails, which I am inclined to believe do more harm than good to democracy. To receive dozens upon dozens of letters that all say exactly the same thing is not only monotonous, but also disheartening. This isn’t what the British founders of democracy conceived centuries ago. I know many people are extremely busy and may feel a standard letter from a national campaign is enough. However, a personal letter would express their concern in a much more significant way.
On a lighter note, whilst the obvious highlight of my internship has been passing Zac Goldsmith in the corridor, twice, I would say it was sobering to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes with the countless researchers, case workers, assistants, office managers and interns that dedicate all their time to you, the constituent.
Most of all I enjoyed being part of the political process, which I strongly believe people in this country take for granted especially when we work against the backdrop of the North African crisis.
Steve comments: I’m really grateful to Yana, not just for all her hard work supporting my Parliamentary Assistant, Tim, but for taking time to think about how Parliament and democracy works.
As I complete my first year as an MP, I’ll be reflecting on my own experience and Paul Goodman’s Policy Exchange paper, What do we want our MPs to be? There’s much to do and I am increasingly convinced Hannan and Carswell’s The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain has much to offer, notwithstanding all the elements of it which have appeared in the Coalition programme…