Off the record... Researchers' stories

Written by 17 Dec 2010 on 17 December 2010 in Culture
Male prostitutes, putrid comestibles and brutally honest feedback

I had just started working for my MP and was organising his conference diary. I took a call from a representative of the employment service, Remploy. I misheard, and thought the person calling had asked if my MP wanted to meet with a "rent boy". I politely declined the offer, knowing that my MP wasn't interested in that kind of thing. Fortunately the person at the other end of the phone was fairly persistent. "Are you sure?" they asked. "I think your MP requested the meeting." It was only then I realised my mistake and began backtracking.

Personal problems
I was sitting at my computer with my MP, going through the weekly batch of invoices (of which there are lots) and looking at whether IPSA had bothered to repay my MP (no, they hadn't). I am normally careful about closing Office Communicator (an MSN Messengertype application for Parliament) and my email. This ensures that no embarrassing emails pop up while my MP is sitting at my desk. However, this time I forgot. Now to put this in context, I was having a discussion with some of my friends about the American drama series The OC. One of my colleagues emailed the group about a character to say: "She was the anorexic with the alcohol problem." Awkward.

Version control
We received a feedback form from our local council asking how we, as an MP's office, rate their case-working department. My colleague - joker that he is - filled the questionnaire out with a number of sarcastic responses. To coin an old phrase it was ‘for our eyes only'. Imagine the shock when we couldn't find the questionnaire. No-one remembered posting it or throwing it away. Fortunately, the form was anonymous but this day we still wonder if they took our feedback on-board.

To the rescue
I had been on a first aid course for my local sports team and came into the office the next day espousing my newlyacquired knowledge. My colleagues and I got into a conversation on how to perform CPR - they didn't know. I got one of them to lie down on the floor and began giving a demonstration. As I was showing them how to do the compressions, my MP walked in. After she got over the initial shock of thinking one of her employees had just suffered a heart attack, she saw the funny side and asked me to run through it again for her benefit. It was quite a surreal morning.

Food, malodorous food!
Constituents are sometimes so grateful for the help that the constituency office provides that they give us gifts of food. But constituents are not always the best cooks, and our fridge is currently suffering from an overabundance of slightly elderly foodstuffs. On my MP's most recent visit, certain demands were made in relation to the smell.

Information leak
I was beavering away in the office when I took a call from a company that was updating its lists of ministerial responsibilities. They asked me what the new offi cial title of my MP was so I proudly told them - he is now a minister. They asked me a question over a particular ministerial responsibility. I wasn't sure so I asked my MP. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that the minister responsible was him. Oops!

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This article was first published in Total Politics magazine.

Tags: Issue 31, Off the record..., Researchers' Stories

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