Off the record: Researchers' stories
This article is from the June 2013 issue of Total Politics
The life of a constituency-based caseworker is not as glamorous as that of our fellow colleagues employed as researchers in Parliament. While they run around the corridors of power and sip freshly brewed coffees in Portcullis House, we’re reduced to functioning in cold, draughty constituency offices where a flushing toilet is considered a luxury. Our weekly trip out is to the nearby town hall where we do surgeries. Last week, there was a problem with one of the lights – it kept flickering on and off. I eventually I found the switch and turned it off. However, it fused all the lights in the room, so my MP and his constituents were left sitting in the dark. Desperately, I tried a few more switches, but in vain. The caretaker quickly came and told me that I’d somehow fused that entire wing of the town hall. The lights were bad but, worst of all, a number of staff computers had shut down too.
Doctoring the text
We recently paid for 5,000 leaflets advertising my MP’s constituency advice surgeries. The proof was checked by the designer, my MP, two colleagues, and myself, and the leaflets were delivered to our office. We eagerly opened them to see how they turned out – and found a spelling mistake on the first line. My MP hit the roof, but we distributed them anyway. He now offers “advise surgeries” rather than “advice surgeries”. Hopefully, this won’t mean he’s suggesting medical treatment…
That’s the ticket
I live in London, and am often required to travel out to my MP’s constituency to attend meetings with her. On the rare occasion that I reach my underground station and realise I’ve left my Oyster card at home, I get a Travelcard and claim it back through IPSA, justifying it by saying that I’d had to travel from Westminster to the constituency that day. This is, of course, a complete lie – it just saves me walking 15 minutes back to my house to pick up my card. If MPs can fiddle their expenses, then why can’t researchers?
A recent article in this column outing Labour’s David Lammy as a serial non-holder-open-of-doors, whilst also praising Conservative MP Sheryll Murray for her door-opening etiquette, has caused a flurry of discussion in parliamentary bars. So much so, in fact, that we’ve now cobbled together a list of saints and sinners (in no particular order):
Saints Christopher Chope, Mark Harper, Andy Burnham, Tim Loughton, Tim Farron, Ben Bradshaw, Lorely Burt, Jessica Morden, Barry Gardiner, Lisa Nandy, Oliver Colvile, and Amber Rudd.
Sinners Michael Ellis, Diane Abbott, Stephen Hammond, Luciana Berger, David Morris, Stella Creasy, Karl McCartney, Justine Greening, Rachel Reeves, Sarah Teather, and Valerie Vaz.
So, be warned, MPs – it’s the small things in life that can make all the difference.