Monday, 20 July 2015

A Week in Westminster

From the week beginning 13th July, I was lucky enough to be offered work experience in the Westminster office of my local representative, the Rt. Hon David Jones MP for Clwyd West in North Wales. The experience was an amazing opportunity to put to the test my academic understanding of UK politics, engage in the working life of the House of Commons and offer my skills and experience in writing policy recommendations. The opportunity also gave me a chance to gain new competencies in writing press releases, corresponding with constituents and liaising with lobbyist groups. The experience not only gave me the opportunity to use and develop skills but to test my ability to be successful in the working world after three years as a student studying International Politics and Conflict Studies.

The work I was given was varied and challenging and tasks ranged from postal triage engaging in diplomatic meetings. It was a pleasant coincidence that one of my MP’s main areas of interest has moved to the politics of the Middle East, which happened to be one of my most enjoyable modules at Queen’s. Although slightly to the East, the recent nuclear deal in Iran became a main area of debate in the House during my week in the Commons and this was an exciting opportunity to sit in on debates such as Prime Ministers Questions and Oral Questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Not only did this opportunity allow me to witness first hand the scrutiny the government is put under following such significant agreements but also sit in on diplomatic meetings with lobbyist groups such as the National Council of Resistance for Iran (NCRI) and hear different sides of the debate on whether the agreement was regarded a success.

A different aspect of the role was engagement with issues raised from constituents, this enabled me to adapt quickly to working on differing issues simultaneously. I was given research tasks on issues such as the assisted dying bill and how the budget will affect North Wales. This enabled me to use skills gained at Queen’s, in particular the ‘Skills and Methods” module which allowed me to evaluate reliability, value and purpose of pieces of data in order to write well balanced and accurate briefings on the differing issues.

Developing professionally, this opportunity has given me confidence in myself to enter the job market following my MA next year, (which will also be at Queen’s) having attractive skills and experience to offer employers. I felt the work I did in the HoC was valued and gave me a genuine portrayal of what is expected of a parliamentary assistant, as opposed to many internships where you're left making tea and photocopying. The other parliamentary assistants encouraged me and I was made to feel like part of the team. The opportunity has also restored my faith in the political system, although speaking only for the hard work of my MP David Jones; I was able to see how he successfully engages with the issues of his constituents with un-doubtable empathy for their issues and a quick turnaround in resolving problems. I would encourage any student in the School to contact their MP and inquire about such an experience as it has undoubtedly enhanced my employability and confidence prior to entering the job market.  

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