Looking for a job working for an MP?
Updated: 3 August 2012
UPDATE 30 September 2011:
If you are looking at this page, chances are you have already decided that you want to work for an MP. This guide is aimed at making the process more understandable and to help you increase your chances of getting a job in an MP’s office.
The first thing to realise about MPs is that they tend not to have the time to train a member of staff up to being able to do the job. MPs prefer to employ people who already know something about how their offices are run and what is required of their staff. Therefore, whilst some people do gain employment in an MP’s office without any political work experience, it is very rare and usually only happens where there is a personal connection to the MP.
It is worth noting that some jobs get filled by word of mouth without ever being advertised, often because someone already working for an MP moves on to another job at Westminster.
The following information should help you to establish what you need to do prior to sending an application to an MP.
The first thing you need to think about is that working for an MP is party political. MPs do receive applications from people who have either worked for an MP of a different party, or who say ‘I’m not party political, but…’ – in short, this is not going to get you a job in Parliament. Whilst party membership is not a pre-requisite, you should know which party you support and therefore only target MPs of that party. Bear in mind that once you have worked for an MP of a particular party, it will be very difficult to work for an MP of another party.
The next consideration is whether you want to work in the constituency office or Parliament. MPs typically employ Secretaries and Caseworkers in the constituency office and Parliamentary Assistants/Secretaries and Parliamentary Research Assistants in Parliament. The jobs are quite different and command different salaries. Our page on the parliamentary salary scales is updated every April: www.w4mp.org/html/library/salaries/general.asp.
Caseworkers typically help constituents with localised issues such as housing, immigration, benefits and social services.
Parliamentary Assistants/Secretaries typically run the Westminster office, taking care of everything from running the diary, writing letters to managing staff. Parliamentary Research Assistants typically respond to political letters from constituents, write speeches, and research and write/orally present briefings. In addition, many researchers coordinate All Party Groups. The roles vary from MP to MP which is why it is difficult to be more specific about the duties of each different role.
Once you have decided where you want to work, and in what capacity, you need to think about how your CV will stand out from the hundreds of applications an MP will receive in response to a job advert.
In general, most research positions require you to have a degree. The classification of your degree is not hugely important. In some respects your education is taken as a given and what really counts is what political work experience you have. More specifically, the key issue is whether you have ever worked, in a voluntary or paid capacity, for an MP.
The most successful applicants will have a few months of work experience for an MP. This may be in the form of voluntary work in the constituency office, for the local party, helping during an election campaign, or in Parliament. This may seem prohibitive to people who cannot afford to work for free, or for small amounts of remuneration, but it is the reality of gaining work for an MP.
If you are coming from outside the UK, look at our page on ‘Foreign Nationals working for MPs (and other organisations around Westminster)’.
If you haven't found the W4MP jobs page yet, it's at: www.w4mpjobs.org/.
Prior to approaching an MP for work experience, you should be clear of how much time you can offer per week. Be realistic – it does not look good to commit yourself to, for example, 3 days, and then find you can only do 1 day per week. You should also think about whether you are offering to work for free, or if you need some remuneration. MPs have limited staffing allowances and usually cannot afford to pay voluntary staff. However, keep an eye on the adverts for interns on W4MP as some are beginning to offer money; click here for our Jobs page.
Once you have clarified what you can offer an MP, start writing to the MPs you are interested in working for. It is worth contacting your local MP first, unless they are not of the party you support. They will be more inclined to offer you a position if you have a real link with their constituency.
If you are not sure which MPs you might want to work for, do some research on individual MPs at this website: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/.
Internships are regularly posted on W4MP so keep an eye on our Jobs page too.
Have a look at the online version of the 98-page booklet we prepared for new staff following the May 2010 General Election. It will give you a very good idea of the scope of the work which Members' Staff undertake both at Westminster and in constituency offices. It's here: www.w4mp.org/html/library/2010booklet/index.asp.
Remember to keep your CV succinct and on no more than 2 pages. Emphasise points such as being involved with your Student Union, writing for the student newspaper and any debating societies. You will stand more of a chance of getting a job with an MP if you can provide a narrative of how you got to the point of wanting to work for an MP.
It may seem obvious, but if you are using the same letter to write to a number of MPs, make sure the MP you address it to is the same MP you write to in the greeting of the letter. In the concluding paragraph of your covering letter, try to give three reasons for why you want to work for the MP you are applying to – not generic points on why you want to work for an MP.
If you have worked for an MP in any capacity, make sure you put that early on in your CV and covering letter. It will focus the MP’s concentration on your application.
Labour Party - Write, including a CV, to the Parliamentary Labour Party Secretary, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. The PLP keeps a file of all applicants that MPs can look through when they are recruiting. Also try the Labour Party jobs page: http://www.labour.org.uk/jobs
Conservative Party. Telephone Conservative Central Office on 020 7222 9000. Also try the Conservative Party jobs page: http://www.conservatives.com/Get_involved/Jobs.aspx
Liberal Democrats. Write to the Liberal Democrat Whip’s Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Also try the Liberal Democrats jobs page: http://www.libdems.org.uk/jobs.aspx
Some of the weeklies and dailies advertise jobs in parliament e.g. the Guardian, Spectator etc. However, the majority of MPs know of W4MP and use it as it is free and widely viewed by prospective candidates. Most researchers in parliament gained their jobs through this site.
Other useful job search websites
(in alphabetical order). Updated 3 August
Adzuna - Politics
Capita RAS Public Sector Resourcing
Civil Service Jobs portal
Civil Service Fast Stream Development
Ellwood and Atfield
Graduate Talent Pool
How to get a Job
Parliament Job Opportunities
Public Sector Jobs
Susan Hamilton Group
other jobs websites:
ED August 2007
This is one of our most popular pages but the information can get out of date quite quickly so let us know, using the Feedback Form, if there's something which needs adding or updating.
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