When I was offered a job working in the corridors of Westminster, little did I realise that my role would cover a large and varied spectrum of tasks from arranging appearances on television game shows, to writing briefings for parliamentary debates
Being a research assistant for the Scottish National Party did indeed bring together a whole range of new experiences, skills and knowledge, due to the fact that politicians get involved in a multitude of things, rarely saying no to any request in which they have an interest. MPs also have parliamentary, constituency, media, travel and time demands on them and in order to perform effectively as an elected representative a good researcher/assistant is crucial.
The first task I was given was to put together three quotes from the works of Robert Burns that still resonate today, thereby demonstrating why Burns should be named as ‘person of the millennium’. All MPs were asked to vote and one that I worked for was going on Radio 4 to explain his choice. Shamefully, my knowledge of Burns was not all that it should have been and this was perhaps the hardest task I was given during my time working in Parliament.
I then moved on to the substance of the job. Drafting parliamentary questions, writing Early Day Motions, and preparing briefing material for debates became routine. The ability to research, write concisely and present information in a political format was essential. I was also tasked with required was providing briefing papers on policy topics, so that the areas of political argument of relevance to the MPs were evidenced and well-researched.
Excellent organisation skills are essential in Westminster. My duties could included organising monthly group meetings between the SNP and their Welsh counterparts Plaid Cymru, setting up travel arrangements, fixing up media interviews (particularly exhaustive on Budget Day), organising meetings that involved MPs from other parties on issues of local concern, attending meetings with government officials and external bodies such as financial institutions and universities, and giving tours around the Palace of Westminster to local constituents.
Mixed in with all this were visits to the local bookies to lay bets on horses, shopping trips to buy sundry items the MPs had forgotten to pack and many a sunny summer evening sitting on the Terrace in the House of Commons, drinking subsidised beer along side the River Thames. Tough job yes but, as you can tell, it had its lighter moments.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own personal opinions and may not reflect those of Shepherd and Wedderburn.