Niamh Buckingham, Parliamentary Intern 2018-19
As a parliamentary intern, there is no typical day in the office as the political scene changes so rapidly. I work for a member of the Opposition Frontbench, so my work is largely policy-related which I find hugely interesting. On any given day, I may process the post and answer emails; prepare weekly ‘top lines’ (updates) for our brief to send out to all Opposition members and staff; manage my MP’s diary and accompany him to meetings with stakeholders; and work with the team to produce press releases.
Every five weeks the Secretary of State is called to the chamber for oral questions, which is our opportunity to hold him to account, ask questions of his Department and raise important concerns in an official manner. It requires a great deal of preparation, including producing a thirty-page brief in advance, and that week is always very busy and stressful. But a successful oral questions session is incredibly satisfying – especially when afterwards my MP is trending on Twitter!
Some of the longer-term projects I work on involve liaising with the constituency office on policy matters, carrying out research and speaking to the House of Commons Library, and writing letters on my MP’s behalf to make representations to the relevant Ministers. Often MPs are the last port of call for constituents and so their cases can be quite desperate. Whilst not always producing the solution they were hoping for, it gives me great job satisfaction to know that my day in the office has been meaningful with real life benefits. For me it is important to not get caught up in the bubble of politics!
After nine months in the job, I feel I have a good grasp of a wide range of issues and an understanding of how parliamentary procedure works (or doesn’t work). Parliament is a great workplace because the atmosphere is so lively and fast-paced. It is surreal to bump into famous politicians and walk through the Palace of Westminster, dating back over a thousand years. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to have been in the thick of it for a year – particularly one so historic and unprecedented with Brexit.
After a busy day at work, I usually destress in the parliamentary gym (or with a pint in the on-site bar!) before heading back to our halls. The highlight of my day is often the amazing dinners that are cooked for us and catching up with my fellow interns and other students over the mealtime. Other evenings, we are invited to exclusive receptions and events where we can meet inspiring leaders, network with other people working in politics and public affairs and sample lots of canapés!