At the start of summer I was keen to find some political work experience, so I thought of contacting Sir Oliver Heald (my MP) to help me out, knowing full well that he has a very busy schedule. Fortunately, I had a quick reply with good news, that I could have work experience with him in a few months’ time. I have been to Parliament a few times, but have always wanted to see first-hand how Parliament works behind the scenes.
My first day was great, after having met Sir Oliver Heald’s Parliamentary assistant Robert, we kicked off with a tour around Parliament, which I have had before but was about 4 years ago so it was very nice having another tour to refresh my memory. After the tour we quickly made our way over to the House of Commons where we knew a statement was about to be delivered on whether or not there will be airport expansion and what airport it will be at. After about 20 minutes of debating, the transport secretary Chris Grayling stated that there will be a 3rd runway at Heathrow airport. Then Robert gave us another little tour that ended when we were shown the terrace, and then made our way to lunch. After lunch we were shown to Robert’s office. When in the office we were shown what Robert may have to on a usual day. I helped write a blog post on an opportunity for Parliamentary teaching for teachers. To round off the day, we made our way over to a Westminster Hall debate on child exploitation in Telford.
Arriving on the second day, we started in another interesting Westminster Hall debate on British engagement with Libya which was intriguing as it was a heated debate. Then Robert took us to the chapel within Parliament, which was incredible. Not to mention a little bit of suffragette history as we were shown the room where Emily Wilding Davison slept on the night of the census. Luckily all three of us were able to get a ticket for the PMQs which was very interesting. Topics such as mental health, Spain allowing Russian ships to refuel in their ports, defence questions, health, councils being merged, and finally Brexit. As, it was early afternoon when PMQs finished, we made our way over to lunch. When I was waiting for my food I realised Jeremy Corbyn was in the queue next to me, I said “Hello Jeremy, How are you?” and quickly walked away. After lunch, we had an hour talk with Sir Oliver Heald and his wife Christine, which was a nice insight into what Sir Oliver does on a day-to-day routine. – Jake C
Back in February, I met up with Sir Oliver Heald, the MP for my area of North East Hertfordshire. It was in Ashwell, where we were talking a lot about local issues like the new housing developments in Baldock and national issues like Brexit, that he asked if I wanted to take the opportunity to visit him at a later date. But it was not anywhere else in the constituency that we were planning to meet up. It was the chance to work alongside others in Parliament.
On October 25th-26th, I was privileged to have two days of work experience at the Houses Parliament. I thought that something like this would be a fantastic opportunity to get a taste into what goes on in Westminster, which I could later put on my UCAS personal statement and CV. I have always wanted to go into journalism and more specifically political reporting, and something like this may be potentially beneficial for me.
The first day was almost indescribable. When you first step out of Westminster tube station and see the sight of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, you just do not know how to feel. It was a beautiful place wherever you went. Whether that would be the unsupported walls of Westminster Hall or the sculptures and paintings of the hidden chapel below.
On first arrival, I got to meet Robert, who was one of Sir Oliver’s parliamentary assistants, who throughout the days was guiding us around Parliament and was always a helpful and polite man to talk to. We managed to grab a seat in the gallery where we saw Transport secretary Chris Grayling announce that there was to be a third runway installed at Heathrow in the future. Alongside that, I got a tour of Parliament with the public and create a press release for Oliver’s website about a recent visit to a cardiac arrest charity event.
However, the second day was my personal highlight of the whole time. I sat in Westminster Hall watching a debate on Britain’s intervention in Libya. But the best bit was sitting in the gallery once again to watch Prime Minister’s Questions, which is the most watched Parliamentary broadcast. It was fantastic being at the top seeing the proceedings of the session and recognising many MPs sitting in the House of Commons at the time. Including the Conservative Prime Minster Theresa May and the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. But the day was not over just yet. I managed to talk to Sir Oliver about local issues revolving in North Hertfordshire, which included discussing the new proposals for the new housing developments in Baldock.
Even something as normal as lunch was still exiting. When grabbing lunch from the salad bar, there was a certain Jeremy Corbyn right beside me, which came as a bit of a shock to me.
Overall, the two days were absolutely brilliant and incredibly insightful. Now knowing more about the functions and goings of Parliament, I will now be able to use this as experience in the near future.
My advice for anyone who wants to go into this sort of area, or work experience in general, is to always keep in touch with people in areas that interest you the most. Stay open minded and intrigued in things you might want to go into in the future. And take every opportunity that you may possibly have, because things like this can be invaluable to employers and bosses. Bill B
For the past two days I have had the great fortune of having work experience with the MP Sir Oliver Heald, where I have been able to gain an insight in to the workings of everyday Parliament. We were first introduced to Robert, Oliver’s Parliamentary assistant. The first activity was a tour of Parliament, which included various bits of information and trivia regarding the history of Parliament. From there we went straight to the public gallery in the House of Commons. On the day when the third runway Heathrow expansion was approved, it was interesting to see the relationship between MPs on different sides asking questions and disagreeing over important issues.
Having had the opportunity to talk directly with Sir Oliver and ask him questions, we were able to gain an understanding of the contrast of the responsibilities that Sir Oliver has. As well as having a responsibility to resolve issues in his constituency for his constituents, he is also a Minister of State for Courts and Justice. This difference in developing national policy and within his own constituency was very interesting to witness. Sir Oliver was friendly and inviting, giving us a personal history of what he has been able to achieve in his time in parliament and what obstacles he has faced.
The highlight of my work experience has to be watching PMQs from the public gallery, seeing Jeremy Corbyn question Theresa May and her government on the actions and decisions they have made. Despite often adversarial politics, it was a good experience to see the relationships between the government and the opposition and how (or how not) the opposition holds the government to account.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my work experience and would like to thank Sir Oliver and Christine for being so friendly and to Robert for showing us around and being so informative throughout this work experience. Joseph M