Student Blog: Life in Parliament

ellcrine1 copyHaving spent much of my spare time at Brasenose campaigning for political change, and then doing the same straight after I finished finals, when the chance came up to be paid to do the very same on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the choice was simple. 

I wasn’t interested in student politics at Brasenose, the Oxford University debating society (the "Union") seemed stuffy and pompous, and I am not one for queues. The Oxford University Labour Club held events which I went to occasionally, but all the votes and the discussion seemed to hold no real purpose and I was so demotivated by it: I wanted actual change, and I wanted to do something about it. So campaigning suited my ambitions, and I turned my full attention to it once I left. 

As a result of being so involved in both the Labour Party and the world of campaigning, when my dream first job of working for a Labour MP came up, I had just the experience I needed to succeed. I started the job almost two years ago, and in the time since I have learnt extensively the centuries old (and often seemingly bizarre) processes of Parliament, how legislation is drafted and amended, and what it takes to effect real change. 

My daily routine can hardly be called that, given it varies from organisational tasks, arranging meetings, answering the phone to journalists and lobbyists, to preparing detailed research briefings  - and sometimes very concise ones!-, managing the All Party Parliamentary Groups my MP chairs, and writing written and oral questions for MPs to ask in the chamber or send to the relevant governmental department. 

Bigger tasks often land on my desk too, such as writing articles for the national press on topics ranging from the Chancellor’s budget to Brexit and the international political landscape. It is a job which requires you to switch from briefing journalists on the political machinations of parliament and the thoughts of different groups of MPs, to maintaining a detailed understanding of government policies, bills passing through parliament, and daily news and world affairs. One of the main things I have to do is know what is going on in parliament, which is not as easy as it sounds, and also develop a critical analysis of government policies and proposals. Then, the task is to develop the right arguments to achieve the end goal, whether it be to persuade the government not to do something or to get an issue on the agenda in the House or in the media. 

Working in parliament is wide-ranging and stretches your mind: one minute I have to write a speech for an Urgent Question in the chamber of the House of Commons on the war in Syria, and the next minute I am writing a question on the government’s two-child policy. I have learnt to appreciate the vast scope of an MPs work, and the commitment and agility of thinking it takes for them to feel like they are doing their job. 

It really is a job unlike any other, and being able to walk the corridors of power, albeit feeling like a powerless onlooker, is an incredible experience and one which I don’t think you could find in many other workplaces. At such a critical time for our country’s economic and political future, it feels extraordinary to be so close to the action - though having said that, it destroys a little piece of my soul each day watching our descent into populism, bitterness, and economic turmoil. 

by Ella Crine (recent Brasenose Classics graduate originally from Henrietta Barnett School, and now Parliamentary Assistant to Alison McGovern MP - as pictured)

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