How networking helped me get a job working in Parliament
Alumni spotlight | Lewis Leach, BA (Hons) Politics, Class of 2017
Lewis Leach - Senior Parliamentary Assistant.
Tell us about your current role and what it involves
I am a Senior Parliamentary Aide to an MP in the House of Commons. I run the Westminster-based offices, supporting elected Members with their Parliamentary business. This is quite a broad ranging role, covering everything from speech writing to diary and media management. The busiest periods are when the House is sitting, passing legislation and debating topics that Members will vote on and take part in.
What organisation do you work for?
I am technically employed by the UK Parliament and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority pays my wages. But I am solely accountable to the elected members.
How did you find this job?
Before working in Parliament I worked in public affairs, firstly in consultancy based in Manchester then latterly moving to a devolved Transport body representing the North of England (TfN). Working in public affairs allowed me to open up a large network of local and national stakeholders, often briefing them on some of the key issues that businesses or organisations were facing. That is how I met my current boss; he was a parliamentary candidate at the time and was interested in the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, which I was working on at the time. We stayed in touch, I supported his campaign, and when he was subsequently elected, I was asked to head up his Westminster office. Conventionally, however, my colleagues in Parliament found their current roles through doing internships whilst at university or applying for roles on the work for MP website (www.w4mpjobs.org). This can be difficult if not based in London, so my advice would be to build your network early if looking for a role in Parliament and to write a covering letter that really stands out, as offices get hundreds of applications for all sorts of roles.
What do you enjoy about your job the most?
I enjoy the general hustle and bustle in Westminster. Every day is never the same, a day can sometimes seem like a week in Politics, depending on the business of the day or reacting to headline news. The variety of work is very rare for someone starting out their career, and MPs offices do not have huge budgets so there is always work to do no matter what your level. I particularly enjoy speech writing and seeing my Members go up and deliver their speeches in the Chamber. It's a good feeling to know you have contributed to a debate, especially on the critical issues like funding for healthcare or schools in the local area. There is always a great social side to Parliament as well, it's a big part of the job, attending events and meeting with people from all over the country.
What skills that you learnt at university have you been able to apply in your role?
Writing and communication are the key skills I have transferred from university. Learning to be concise, not to waffle and to be critical when analysing literature. I have to read an abundance of papers when writing a speech, so it's important to know what's relevant and be as factual as possible. Organisations will spin things towards their cause, so being impartial and critical of the literature you are reading is key, it's good to get a broad spectrum of views. Having a grasp of political economy has also helped with my current role, it seems the most relevant to some of the issues we debate, such as Foreign Aid spending and the Governments response to the Covid pandemic. We can learn a lot from other countries / regions and look at their responses to crisis, observing trends and looking at what works.
What will your story be?
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