Off the record: Researchers' stories
This article is from the August 2013 issue of Total Politics
Last month’s column on saints and sinners caused quite a stir, particularly the revelation that Stella ‘St. Ella’ Creasy does not hold doors open. Well, we researchers have since been inundated with people jumping to her defence, insisting we must have caught her on a bad day. So Stella, due to popular demand, we belatedly re-classify you as a saint!
Division bell hell
Meetings with MPs often go off without a hitch, but every now and then they can be a complete disaster. A few weeks ago a charity came to the House of Commons to have a coffee with my MP and lobby about a particular issue. My MP had just arrived and was about to sit down when the division bell went. It was the first of three consecutive votes, meaning my MP did not return until 45 minutes later – the time the meeting was scheduled to last. My MP spoke to the charity representatives for about two minutes before saying, “I’m sorry I really must dash, but my assistant will give you a tour.” Having travelled an hour into London to meet my MP, they weren’t that impressed with my half-remembered anecdotes about Westminster Hall...
We’ve made a terrible mistake
The Young Fabians recently held a ‘goodbye’ reception for David Miliband, just off Sloane Square. Apparently, the departing Miliband gave a rousing speech, telling the assembled masses "to look forward, not back" and continue taking the fight to the coalition. He was given a rapturous ovation. Rumour has it he was so good that a group of researchers scouted out a local bar to drown their sorrows. One – an Ed voter in the leadership contest, and whose MP was a prominent member of the successful campaign – confided that the reception was “depressing”. “Why so?” I asked. “Because it made you realise just what a mistake we made by electing Ed. David had complete control of the room. It was a masterclass...”
Calm down dear, I’m a researcher
A recent all-party inquiry into electoral conduct has found that MPs are often – and, in some cases, unsurprisingly – a target for abuse. Well let me tell you, it's not just the MPs – their poor researchers often bear the brunt of constituents’ anger. A few weeks ago, a father of a constituent called up. He was angry about the way his daughter had been treated by the council. The fact that an MP's office is not an extension of, or in any way related to, the council, was apparently an unimportant detail. He launched into this tirade: “You know what, [researcher]? You’re fucking useless. I'm going to watch you leave your office one day and hunt you down, you c**t. I'll follow you home and God help me if I fucking firebomb your house, you prick.” Quite. Such conversations actually happen with alarming regularity on MPs’ phone lines – so spare a thought for us lowly researchers next time you call your MP. Be nice!