It was a pleasure to have UEA student Jack Ashton with me for three weeks of work experience in parliament. Jack has written this blog to give everyone a bit more insight into his time with us, and how the world of Westminster comes across to someone experiencing it for the first time:
‘It’s really posh.’ – The first text I sent to the group chat when I entered Portcullis House. Of course it is, you hear it all the time- ‘politics is a closed shop’, ‘it’s a revolving door’, ‘it’s the Oxbridge route’, but you don’t comprehend until you see it.
Everyone inside practically oozes middle class, from the hordes of short-back-and-sides men making me desperately wish I’d got a haircut, to the people passing through the security checks who are seemingly unable to put their own security trays away because they’re so accustomed to having someone do it for them, it’s immediately clear why my work experience was only open to people from low income families. And walking into Clive’s office, it’s immediately clear that’s it’s a different sort of space in there too.
There isn’t a suit in sight, when I met Clive on my first day he was wearing camouflage shorts (classic dad move), and the whole place has a much more relaxed vibe than just a few steps outside of his the door, which meant settling in was much easier, and then easier still by how I was welcomed into the office.
After the initial sit-down talk about the dos and don’ts of parliament (do ask questions, and yes that is Vince Cable on the escalator- don’t stare) I was given an email to respond too. AN easy task, which obviously I put far too much effort into crafting the most perfect email to respond too, but it was just enough to settle me in.
Next quickly came touring of Parliament, visiting the chamber, sitting in on select committees and all sorts of work in the office. There was never really a learning phase, but there also wasn’t one needed- everything I didn’t know about I was able to ask, and as much as the office is teaming with information which is, for now, out of my realm of knowledge, I always understood what was going on well enough.
For the things I didn’t know much about, I found I quickly did. It’s clearly a place that is full of knowledge, and it’s impossible for it to not rub off onto you. The same goes for all the problem’s that everyone in the office is helping to tackle; things that once were minor concerns to me are popping up as potential lifelong campaigns.
Studying politics can become particularly dreary, and even more disheartening. But seeing it firsthand, the day to day work of everyone involved and the evident amount of passion people have for it, combined with how much change they’re trying to make has, in a way, managed to revitalised my love and dampen my feeling of hopelessness over politics.
I came into this experience wondering whether or not politics inside parliament is really for me, and frankly I’m still wondering that, but I can now say that I’ve seen it first hand, and it’s given me a new outlook on how to look at politics.