The story of staffers at conference

Written by Felicity Parkes on 5 October 2012 in Opinion
If a staffer isn’t with their MP at Conference 24/7, careers could be lost

This article is from the October 2012 issue of Total Politics

Conference season is a strange time for those of us who work as staffers or researchers for Members of Parliament. Working for an MP means you’re flying their flag and representing them. Everything you do, everything you say, can – and probably will – be used against them. 
So because of this, party conference can sometimes be like a chaotic slice of hell. We spend several days away from home, living out of a suitcase, drinking nothing but awful free wine and eating nothing but near-non-existent finger food. The party members, staffers and lobbyists who we’ve spent our working week trying to avoid are suddenly there. And we cannot get away.
I attended party conference 2011 at my boss’ side with the hope that it would save me from talking my way into events. It was 2am, and I was standing just outside the security zone, getting garbled text messages from my MP, who was trying to work out where I was so he could give me a dozen business [notes] and then take him back to his hotel room because he’d forgotten where he was staying. If it hadn’t been for me, he wouldn’t have packed his toothbrush, razor or more than one tie. Some MPs are resourceful, self-sufficient and independent individuals, but there will always be those who, if not watched 24/7, will end up in a kebab shop 10 miles from the conference centre, trying to buy chips with their hotel room door key.
Labour, Conservative or Lib Dems – it doesn’t change the fact that conference is a double-edged sword for a parliamentary researcher or bag-carrier. With great responsibility comes great headaches. 
Will I be at party conference this year? You betcha! Someone has to keep an eye on my boss.

Tags: Felicity Parkes, Issue 51

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