Researchers' stories: Off the record

Written by 28 Jan 2013 on 28 January 2013 in Culture
Showdowns in the canteen and a mini expenses scandal: what have our anonymous Westminster staffers been up to this month?

This article is from the February 2013 issue of Total Politics

Send it back to the kitchen
I have never got on too well with the food in the Parliament canteens. There are some distressing menu choices but the staff are, normally, one of the more pleasant aspects. Last week I may have ruined that for myself by plucking up the courage to take a particularly awful concoction back for a refund. The head chef who came to discuss it with me didn’t agree with my review one bit, and we had a bit of a stand-off. Looks like it will be Tesco’s meal deal for me from now on...
Expenses scandal 
The words ‘Parliament’ and ‘expenses’ are synonymous with each other ever since the Daily Telegraph got hold of that CD a few years ago. Joe Public thinks it’s only MPs who have been caught with their hands in the till. How wrong they are. The other day a researcher friend confided to me that on two occasions he has found day travelcards lying in Westminster tube station and submitted them to IPSA, claiming he used them to travel on ‘work-related visits’ in and around the capital. I told him this was essentially fraud, but he seemed nonplussed.
The morning after
The run-up to Christmas is good fun − you can always rely on a few lobby groups or trade unions to put a bit of cash behind a Westminster bar, therefore allowing hard-pressed researchers to let their hair down a little. A friend of mine got a little bit over-excited and went home with a girl. The next morning, hungover, he got up, made his excuses and left, but not before meeting some of her housemates. In a twist of fate, one of the housemates turned out to be the niece of the MP he works for.
Missing guests
My MP was recently awarded the honour of showing around some MPs from the Bangladeshi Parliament. It was agreed that we would meet them in the reception of Portcullis House. We waited, and waited, and waited. It transpired that they had got in via the visitors’ entrance on Cromwell Green and had rung through to a member of the House of Lords, whom one of the delegation knew. His Lordship had taken them on a tour and they had seemingly forgotten about meeting my MP. I was charged with going to collect them from the Lords, a part of the Palace I hardly know. A few security guards looked at me strangely every now and again when I stopped to ask them: “Have you seen a delegation of Bangladeshi MPs walking around?”
Newton’s law
MPs get a wide-ranging selection of mail from constituents. Many of the letters are important and, as caseworkers, we are only too happy to get involved to help people out. Every now and again, a few crackers come through. For example, a 237-page document with a CD-Rom arrived, sent recorded delivery. The writer said he was on the cusp of disproving gravity. He received a three-line letter in return from my MP essentially saying that “his comments had been noted”.

Tags: Issue 55, Researchers' Stories

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