A whirlwind of a week in Westminster – Shem Redie
The ominous halls of Portcullis House faced me as I queued up to pass through the visitor’s entrance. I couldn’t help the mixed feelings of nervousness, caution and excitement I had on that Monday morning. Admittedly, the one thing I was worried about (and something many students fear when they accept work experience or internship opportunities) is being reduced to working on dull, non-meaningful tasks or god forbid, pouring tea and coffee. Nevertheless, by the time I’d passed through security and left my name with reception, I was ready to face the day. The members of staff that worked in Clive’s office helped me a great deal on my first day, calming me down considerably by being so welcoming and friendly. I understood that they were really busy and perhaps that was why I didn’t expect them to be as welcoming as they were.
Rebecca, the main co-ordinator responsible for my time in the office, ensured that communication was always open between us in the event that I didn’t understand something or had any questions or concerns. As I began to receive a list of things that I was to work on both for the day and throughout my time with the office, those previous fears of boring or unchallenging work were dashed. The work I was involved in included research for policy writing, drafting letters to constituents and political bodies, drafting social media posts and writing briefing papers. All of this enthused me and I felt so excited and interested with the work that I was doing. I could honestly say that for once I could relate with the old Confucian saying, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.
One of the reasons why this experience has been so impactful and one that I will cherish for years to come is the balanced nature by which I was working but also attending events during the day that would enrich my learning and allow me to learn a different side to politics. Experiencing PMQs in the flesh was an opportunity I never thought I would get and despite the loud heckling and pantomimic nature, it was entertaining and a glimpse at the extreme end of parliamentary etiquette. Other events that I attended included accompanying Clive to media interviews and attending select committees and inquiries. This contributed to the whole feeling of an experience truly worthwhile and tailored to me.
The whole experience felt relaxed and I was made to feel and certainly did feel as if I was contributing to meaningful work and had been working for Clive Lewis for months. An office that makes a newcomer feel comfortable and slot right in seamlessly is one which should be lauded and I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of the members’ of staff in Clive’s office. Gratitude not only for making this one of the best weeks to remember but also reinvigorating my interest in domestic politics which had suffered a decline during my time in University due to the international half of my degree. As a result of my time in Parliament, I can no longer rule out ever running for parliament and whilst there are still a considerable number of years before that possibility can ever be entertained; I cannot help but feel inspired by the man behind the MP that has facilitated my changed heart towards politics. The manner Clive conducts himself in Westminster by fighting for his constituents, standing up for his beliefs and speaking out for those without a platform all the while juggling front-bench responsibilities, qualifies both his staff and himself to a high level of admiration. In the space of a week, I have learned a great deal about the centre of British politics, the challenges our politicians face on a day-to-day basis, the great level of detail and care required when drafting policy, the careful balance between policy-making and representing constituents and more. Whilst I wave goodbye to a week of endless interesting encounters and insightful learning, I leave knowing full well that I got what I wanted from the experience and that parliament has not seen the end of me yet.