A Westminster Diary

I was very happy when I was able to secure an intern position in the office of Stephen Timms who is a Labour MP for the constituency of East Ham (in London), he is the shadow Minister for Employment. I was informed on my first day that the office is famous across Westminster and those working for Stephen are affectionately referred to as ‘Team Timms’.

Let me introduce to you the office. We have Ali, the office manager, who is known around parliament as ‘the fixer’. He earned this name by fixing problems. He is in charge of making sure the office runs perfectly. Opposite him is his nemesis/best friend (they can’t decide) Pete, he heads up the constituency casework done in the office. This is an important job especially in areas like East Ham where many people are facing immigration and housing problems. Also on the team we had Beth, who moved to Camden Council by the end of my first week. I was assured that her departure was nothing to do with my arrival but I’m not so sure. She was replaced by Sarah who had previously worked in the office. Apparently, she returned after realising that nothing could match up to being a member of Team Timms. Sarah also did casework as well as helping to do research for the policy side of things with Ian. His job title is ‘Senior Parliamentary Assistant’, which sounds quite important because it is. He is responsible for supporting Stephen in his front bench role as shadow Minister for Employment.

Stephen himself was always coming in and out of the office in order to attend meetings and events. He has been based in East Ham for a long time. He worked as a councillor and then became leader of the council before becoming the MP. He was elected in 2010 with the largest majority in the country. After seeing how hard he worked I can’t say I’m surprised by this. I was in charge of organising his diary and I could see the hours and effort he put into being an MP. I was lucky enough to accompany him on some Fridays when he was based in the constituency. I visited a variety of places from new academies to old ships. It was a very interesting insight into politics in action.

My Low Light: Early on I managed to get on the wrong side of a lift full of MPs. Division bells sound in Westminster grounds (and in the two nearest pubs!) when there is to be a vote in the commons. All MPs have exactly 8 minutes to get from wherever they may be to the vote. During these 8 minutes only MPs are allowed to use lifts. I forgot about this rule. When I called the lift and the doors opened I was slightly confused why everyone inside looked so angry. I stepped in oblivious, it wasn’t until the doors were shut that one particularly angry MP reminded me I shouldn’t be there. As lift journeys go it was quite an awkward one.

My Highlight: One highlight was being able to attend the important commons liaison committee meeting, where MPs extensively grilled our prime minister. It was a great show to be at. Another memorable moment was when one of the letters I drafted for Stephen resulted in someone being arrested. It was satisfying to know that the work we were doing tucked away in Westminster could actually make a tangible difference for those living in East Ham.

I enjoyed immensely my time in Westminster. I have moved to the States for a while to intern at a church (it’s pretty sunny here so I’m not complaining too much) but I am missing the corridors of Westminster.

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