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To ask about working with MPs please?

(18 Posts)
WellAlwaysHaveParis Mon 18-Dec-17 11:20:19

I'm really interested in going into a job in politics and/or government relations.

I've spent the last couple of years not really knowing what I want to do and feeling a bit lost, and doing a training course for something that I was totally unsuited to (teaching).

Then I started hearing about what Jo Cox had been involved in during the career, and it really feels like the kind of work that I'd want to be involved in.

Anyway, I've started applying for jobs via the W4MP website (which advertises general jobs related to politics as well as jobs working for MPs).

I recently had some advice on here that applying for parliamentary assistant jobs is incredibly competitive, especially when you don't have any previous experience (I don't, apart from having transferable skills from current Citizens Advice volunteering and volunteering with More United).

My question is: would it be appropriate for me to contact MPs and ask them if they have any vacancies at all? And then working for them unpaid or on a short internship could be a way of gaining valuable experience.

Or am I just kidding myself? I spoke to my family about it, and they think the vacancies would just be advertised online anyway. My family thinks it's a waste of time writing to them. What do you all think?

Thanks.

Chaosofcalm Mon 18-Dec-17 11:23:21

If it wastes your time then so what?!

Youcanstayundermyumbrella Mon 18-Dec-17 11:24:20

Are you interested in party politics? Because most MPs will want people working for them who support their party, and expect quite a bit of party activity.

If you just like the idea of working in politics or government generally, might you consider applying for roles working for Parliament itself, or the civil service even, although that is quite different but far more opportunities come up.

Youcanstayundermyumbrella Mon 18-Dec-17 11:25:13

Also MPs take on interns all the time. It's standard. Some will be wary of unpaid interns though after press criticism.

GladAllOver Mon 18-Dec-17 11:29:04

As Youcanstay said, if you want to work directly for an MP you need to be dedicated to their party. And you will probably already be working for their local party branch as a volunteer.

WellAlwaysHaveParis Mon 18-Dec-17 11:30:56

Thanks for your replies everyone smile

@Chaosofcalm do you mean I should just apply anyway, even if it wastes my time? (Hoping that's what you mean smile ).

@Youcanstayundermyumbrella I'd be interested in applying for positions with Lib Dem or Labour MPs. I'm not a member of a political parent, but have supported both Lib Dem and Labour policies. Voted Lib Dem since I've been able to vote.

WellAlwaysHaveParis Mon 18-Dec-17 11:31:55

Whoops - meant to say political party, not political parent wink

Youcanstayundermyumbrella Mon 18-Dec-17 11:34:24

Well, an MP will usually employ people who are members of their party, and active locally. For example, people who have gone leafleting locally, attended events etc. All those things will definitely be expected of you once you have the job and it will consume your spare time.

They can and do employ people who are NOT enormously politically engaged, but those people are usually skilled in some way and bring value to their office.

Youcanstayundermyumbrella Mon 18-Dec-17 11:40:13

Also it's worth thinking about the wider political climate. Given the numbers of MPs, it's most likely you would find yourself working for a Labour MP. You'd be involved in all sorts of party wrangling that you may presently be completely and blissfully unaware of. What are your views on Momentum for example? What if your MP was one with a local party trying to deselect, either for supporting Corbin or not? Would you feel passionate about supporting them? It's a difficult time to be involved with the Labour Party if you're not fiercely committed.

Moomintroll85 Mon 18-Dec-17 11:50:38

I have worked for an MP, party and a peer. If your own MP or one nearish to you is of the party you want to work for it may be worth seeing if they need any volunteers to help out in their constituency office. Or similar for your local party group or councillors, try to join the party if you can and help out with your local branch, they're often crying out for support.

These things are the kind of experience they like staff to have, though I appreciate a lot of people can't afford to volunteer. I couldn't afford to but got lucky with a job with an MP straight out of uni. It can be very competitive though so if applying for posts emphasise your Citizen's Advice experience as it's very similar to MPs casework. Also they love applicants who know their consituencies well and/or share their specific policy interests.

I personally wouldn't bother writing to MPs generally, unless there are any in particular you have a local connection to. We used to receive lots of such letters but with all the urgent casework that needed doing we didn't really have time to follow them up. W4mp is a great resource and lots of jobs are regularly posted there. Good luck!

BerkInBag Mon 18-Dec-17 11:54:08

I've worked in government relations/lobbying and I can confirm that MPs recruit party members to their staff.

You ask if it would be appropriate to contact MPs and ask them if they have any vacancies at all? The answer is of course, you should ask the question, "shy bairns get nowt" as my grandmother used to say. The worst that can happen is they say no and tell you why, hence giving you a bit of advice to be going on with. Never give up without trying. Ignore your family.

Why not start by getting involved in local politics first, lots of people start that way. Do some voluntary work for your local party. They always need support.

bookworm14 Mon 18-Dec-17 12:01:51

<risks outing self> I worked for 6 years as a caseworker/Office manager to two MPs (moved on to something else about 7 years ago).

It is incredibly competitive, and most people in paid jobs with MPs will have done unpaid internships first (I did this myself). This is deeply unfair as it penalises those who can’t afford to work unpaid, but I’m just reporting how it is. A lot of MPs, particularly Labour, now offer paid internships, but these will not pay much. It is generally a requirement to be sympathetic to the aims/beliefs of the party your chosen MP belongs to, and a lot of people applying for these roles will actually be a member of the party too.

There are two general types of MP’s assistant: Caseworkers, who deal with correspondence from constituents and try to help them with personal issues e.g. immigration or housing, and Parliamentary Assistants, who help on the parliamentary side with research etc. Both can be fascinating and rewarding; however there is very limited career progression and the pay isn’t generally great. People generally move on after a few years to work for charities, lobbying groups, think tanks etc.

All the negatives aside, I loved my time as a caseworker. You genuinely feel that you are helping people, and it’s fun to feel that you have a bit of an inside track to what’s going on in politics. Working in the House of Commons is also really cool!

If there are jobs on Working For an MP that interest you, there’s no harm in applying - just bear in mind that you will be competing with people who have previously done similar roles or taken unpaid internships. It is also worth contacting your local MP’s office to see if they need any ad hoc help, which they sometimes do - it is most likely to be something quite dull like putting letters in envelopes, but it does give you an ‘in’.

Good luck!

WellAlwaysHaveParis Mon 18-Dec-17 12:35:53

Thanks for all of your replies, everyone smile

@Youcanstayundermyumbrella that's very true about needing to stay committed to Labour, particularly at this time. I support the ideas and aims of Momentum, but I have felt for a while that the way that they put these ideas into practice can be seen as a bit extreme and forceful, which I don't agree with at all. So yes, I completely agree that it's difficult at this time to show a really strong commitment to Labour.

Both can be fascinating and rewarding; however there is very limited career progression and the pay isn’t generally great. People generally move on after a few years to work for charities, lobbying groups, think tanks etc. @bookworm14 that's what I'd love to do - work for an MP first and then perhaps work for a charity or think tank.

WellAlwaysHaveParis Mon 18-Dec-17 14:31:18

Thanks everyone for all of your advice so far - I really appreciate it smile Just bumping this in case anyone has any further tips or advice smile

SantasButtCrack Mon 18-Dec-17 14:57:13

Like a few other people have said, the main route in is doing party volunteering. Sign up to whichever party you want to be in, and take on one of the lead committee or volunteering roles.

It helps if you've got a solid commitment or ideological reason for joining - it's not going to get you very far if you say you've always voted for the Lib Dems but support the aims of Momentum, you need to choose.

Constituency issues are the bread and butter of what an MPs' office does - citizens' advice is a really useful background to have.

Another route in to similar work is standing for a local government position. Even if you don't get in, if you've run a competent campaign and come across well then it'll help you find work with an MP. It's a lot of effort though.

BothersomeCrow Mon 18-Dec-17 15:21:04

The civil service is expanding hugely atm and it is obviously dealing with politics and relations with government. The difference is being officially politically neutral (though I'm yet to meet a single civil servant who admits to being Leave...). Most of the policy type jobs are in London and some other cities such as Sheffield, but more casework type jobs exist in all sorts of government agencies round the country. Tends to be a flexible employer albeit with bureaucracy, but certainly policy work is never boring.

thatstoast Mon 18-Dec-17 16:43:56

Join the Labour party? See what you think of it - my constituency is very far away from the main party issues. Lots of good people trying to do good things for their community.

ginghambox Mon 18-Dec-17 16:50:02

Just join Momentum and shout a lot you'll soon be in the shadow cabinetsmile

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