Researchers' stories: Off the record
This article is from the December 2012 issue of Total Politics
Who’s a clever boy, then? Tweet!
Some MPs like to tweet, some don’t. Some want to be seen to tweet, but get their researchers to do it for them. My MP falls into the latter category. I was once composing an inanely boring tweet while my MP was in the chamber, asking people to turn up to a jumble sale at the weekend. What I didn’t notice was that at that exact moment my MP was on his feet asking a question. I only found out when a friend emailed me querying the multi-tasking ability of my MP. Fortunately, no eagle-eyed journalists noticed, probably because the tweet was so boring...
The MP for Bah & Humbug…
I've worked for two MPs since graduating. Whoever the MP is, there's always an awkward conversation about who pays for my party conference pass, and, if I have no friends where the conference is being held, my accommodation. I've been fortunate that both MPs have paid out of their own pockets for me. I genuinely feel quite bad about this as the bill often runs to a couple of hundred pounds, if not more (as it’s a party event, MPs and staff can’t claim it back on parliamentary expenses). Anyhow, one researcher told me prior to conference season that her MP expected her to pay everything out of her own pocket. My friend stood her ground, arguing that she couldn’t afford it and, as she was expected to work during the conference, she shouldn’t be expected to pay all of it. The conversation ended with the MP threatening to sack my friend for essentially being too poor! In the end she had to borrow the money from her parents. Nice.
Major business card fail
On a recent trip abroad with some other researchers, I made the drunken mistake of handing my business card to a guy in a gritty provincial nightclub in a former Iron Curtain country. He seemed nice enough, and I offered him some tips about an impending trip to the UK. It seemed the kindest thing to do – after all, I could give all sorts of advice about what to do and where to eat. He has since bombarded me with emails asking for immigration advice. After a couple he went in for the kill and asked point blank if my MP could organise for him and his girlfriend to be granted leave in the UK. I didn’t respond.
The last Straw
A colleague recently left our office, and was presented with a copy of Jack Straw’s new book, Last Man Standing, by our constituency office staff at the leaving meal. My MP, an erstwhile colleague of the former home and foreign secretary, took the book and leafed through the index to see if he was mentioned. Much to his disappointment, he wasn’t. He casually threw the book back on the table saying: “Bastard. Never liked him the anyway.”