This aritcle is from the January 2013 issue of Total Politics

A parliamentary office is like an island and, despite IPSA’s best efforts, each office has its own customs and traditions. Christmas recess is a fine example of this.

There will be a few MPs who demand that their staff be there between Christmas and New Year, and then there’ll be others – like my own – who will have trouble remembering where they should be, let alone their staff.

One year, I made the terrible decision to drop by the office on 27 December to scavenge post-its, envelopes and a bottle of gin hidden in my bottom drawer. I felt compelled to check the answering machine blinking away in the corner, seeking attention like a politically-motivated teenager. I was then treated to several long messages from the same woman who wanted to know why no one was picking up the phone on Boxing Day, as she had a problem with her neighbour’s bush. If only that had been a euphemism; then I could have sniggered all the way through the conversation because, yes, I called her back. Was it madness, a struggling sense of duty, or the result of a three-day Buck’s Fizz and Pringle diet? I guess we’ll never know, but at least the gin was a welcome relief after the first 10 minutes.

Every MP wants to make the next year better than the last and, bless them, they try so hard. January is always filled with lists of new projects and issues. A new commitment to weekly team meetings will be made and, if they’ve got it really bad, all the chocolate and drink will be removed from the work area. All in all it’s a nightmare for a staffer such as myself, but at least we know that their enthusiasm only ever lasts until mid-February.

Tags: Felicity Parkes, Issue 54