Monday, 28 June 2010

Fruit Teas, Dodgy Photos and Naive Interns

Today sees the arrival of the first contender in The Boss' long list of summer interns, who usually fall into one of three distinct categories: purely decorative additions to the scenery; sixth-form leavers with their sights set on PPE at Oxford and then government, and/or those representing favours to Andrew's mates who want us to babysit their recalcitrant teenagers. Today's is one of the PPE batch, James. He's expected to get five A*s at A-level, and appears to be quite without a sense of humour. This may be because he expected the constituency office to be a little more impressive than it is. I think he expected better than a view of the YMCA, not to mention his encounter with the Bus Driver from South Park, also known as Joan who works in the Labour Party office.

I always get saddled with inducting interns. I'm not sure why. Greg's far closer to them in age, if not earnestness. I obtain the usual Confidentiality Agreement signature, then begin explaining the security measures. This wouldn't take long, if I only mentioned those that The Boss has actually put in place, but I don't. I am far more responsible than that. I explain that you never exit the security door without first checking that there isn't anyone lurking to either side of it, then move on to Special Branch's advice that we always look under our cars before getting into them, and check for people following us either to or from our homes. James starts looking a little concerned. Then I begin to explain the various personalised arrangements for handling the usual suspects, but  am interrupted by the phone ringing. It's Miss Chambers, so James is exposed to the risk to hearing issue rather more quickly than I'd intended. Eventually, he mirrors Greg, who has both hands pressed against his ears. I'm impressed. This kid learns fast.

I'm not sure what to do with him for the rest of the day, as we don't have a spare computer and he seems oddly reluctant to answer the phones. The Boss never thinks about this sort of thing when he accepts applications. I decide James looks to be an intelligent person, and entrust him with some filing. He can't believe the number of live files we have, and the sight of the archive cupboard makes him blanch. Still, he gets on with it without complaint, though he does seem to go to the loo an awful lot, which may be due to that weird healthy tea he brought with him in a Tupperware box. Can't help feeling he'd be better off at the Council. The staff there all drink fruit tea which, along with the wearing of Ecco sandals and long swishy skirts, is an accurate predictor of woolly-headed liberalness and Council employment, at least in the case of women.

In the afternoon, Johnny emails me to say he's back in Russia and to suggest we meet next time he's in the UK. To "keep him going 'til then" he asks whether I have any more photos I can send him, preferably ones with my eyes open? Keep him going where? My arse would take a much better photo than my face, but this is hardly helpful. Someone once told me that, after 40, you can either have a great face or a great arse, and I fall into the latter category, which does make sending anyone a flattering photo rather challenging. Like a fool, I mention this in my reply. Johnny's response arrives with indecent haste - he would be "very happy to receive a photo taken from whatever I deem the most flattering angle, and of any body part I think he'd appreciate." Now what have I done?

Things still weird with Max in the evening. One minute his explanations for his hotel name amnesia ring true, the next I think I must be insane to believe them. Am distracted from contemplating the state of my marriage by yet another phone call from Dinah.

"He's fucking incredible," she says without preamble. She can only mean Dad - so no need to respond. "He was on a date! Visiting Cousin Mike, my arse."

"Not the Thai bride?" I say.

"No," she says. "My friend Annie's mother! He spent the entire weekend shagging her, the bloody hypocrite! He said she was too old when I first gave him her number."

"So what happened?" Do I really want to know the answer to this? As usual, it's too late.

"This morning he told her he didn't think it was meant to be, got in his car and left without arranging another date. I'm so embarrassed."

"So what does he say about it?" I ask.

"He still says he was at Cousin Mike's, for fucksake. Denies everything."

"Why change the habit of a lifetime?" I say, and look hard at Max as I hang up. He remembers he needs to clear out the loft urgently and disappears. Is it any wonder youthful idealism is so hard to cling on to?


  1. I promise were I to be an intern I would be very happy to answer the phone, says she sucking up! This guy doesn't sound too bad, but it must be irritating getting interns when the provisions for them aren't made by those granting the internships.

  2. Constituency offices are just too small, too poorly-resourced and too busy to cope with additional staff easily, and we do lack the glamour of the HOC too! It's probably more about managing interns' expectations better, by ensuring The Boss warns them that the constituency is where the unglamorous stuff gets done! And, of course, theoretically, MP's staff are paid from public funds and their roles aren't supposed to be party political, so shouldn't involve campaigning - though this is very often ignored.... I think you'll enjoy Westminster though - as long as you get a Boss who doesn't make his staff cry too often ;-)

  3. It is often the case with much work experience, it is just so much more difficult for smaller offices.
    I hope so too... these letters I'm writing tomorrow better be amazing then! (leaving it a bit late, but never mind)

  4. You can't try your local MP? Or best advice is to see who you're the best fit with in terms of their particular interests. Check Dods via your local library for more in-depth info on each MP. Good luck. (Are you QUITE sure about this?!)

  5. My local MP, the ridiculous Tory who has failed to make a maiden speech or even be seen in the constituency?! Nice idea with Dods, I shall take a look. Quite sure, besides the worst that happens is I don't enjoy it and decide to do something else with my life, or indeed worse, I irritate the people who work for the MP...

  6. True re changing your mind. But am sure you won't irritate ;-) Dods is actually quite interesting reading (though horrendously expensive). Your library may have paid for access to the online version instead, so enquire. When are you hoping to intern and for how long? Have you checked out for vacancies/advice? Really useful resource - wish it had existed when I first started.

  7. I had a look, at and there was a brilliant vacancy with Emily Thornberry, but the dates were synchronised with my Physics exam, so i couldn't apply. I will keep looking though.
    I'm looking at doing something this Summer at any point up to the end of September, but also just sending the letter gets my name in there for trying again for the Summers during university.