Off the record: Researchers' stories

Written by 21 Feb 2013 on 21 February 2013 in Culture
Stray tweets, engraved iPads and mislaid constituents

This article is from the March 2013 issue of Total Politics

Jumping the queue 
My colleagues in the constituency office told me the other day about one perk I had simply taken as a given before. If they have a complaint about their gas bill, phone line or, in one case, their student loan, they just call the office of the chief executive of the company in question, prefixing each conversation with, “I’m calling from the Office of [name] MP on behalf of a constituent’s case we have”. Given that they live in the constituency, it’s not strictly a lie. They all say how quickly their problems are solved by using this approach rather than going through the usual complaint teams.
A personal gift
Readers may remember that the former MP for Rotherham, Denis MacShane, was forced to stand down last year after he wrongfully claimed at least £7,500 in expenses. Among other transgressions, a parliamentary committee report found he had allowed an intern to take a publicly-funded laptop away at the end of their internship, and bought a new one for his next intern. Generally we accept that this is not the done thing. However, rather than having a laptop, many researchers now plump for an iPad. What’s more, they take advantage of Apple’s offer of engraving it for free with their name. It makes it all the harder to return when they leave.
Website update
Over Christmas I was doing some much needed work on my MP’s website. I updated the news section, the diary section and the photo gallery. I also thought I would link the website to my MP’s Twitter account, meaning whatever he tweeted automatically came up on the front page of the website. However, when I synced Twitter to the website I was unknowingly  logged into Twitter at the time. I didn’t notice, meaning that, for the afternoon, my tweets were front and centre of my MP’s website. Fortunately, most were pretty tame accounts of Liverpool’s performances over the festive period, although there were a few highly charged tweets in there as well, mainly about George Osborne. 
Wrong directions
I work for an MP whose constituency is roughly 50 miles from London. One day a constituent called and asked if they could pick up a copy of a vitally important letter. It was so important he chose to pick it up by hand. “No problem,” the senior caseworker said, “Why don’t you come this afternoon?” The gentleman agreed. However, by 4.30pm he still hadn’t shown up. Around that time we got a call from the parliamentary office saying that someone had arrived at Central Lobby and was waiting to be given a letter. He had travelled to Westminster, rather than making the fifteen minute journey to the constituency office. I felt so sorry for him that I delivered it through his letterbox on my way home. Meanwhile, my Parliamentary colleague gave him a tour of Parliament to make his trip semi-worthwhile.

Tags: Issue 56, Life, March 2013, Researchers' Stories

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