He’s back! You have been patient – far too patient probably. But all is forgiven as W4MP’s very own Dean Trench makes a timely return. And, of course, he’s comes bringing you the very best of advice with which to face the year ahead.
So, do yourself a favour: print out’s Dean ‘Seven Resolutions’ so you can read them last thing at night and first thing in the morning and many times in between. Go on – it’s the first day back following Recess and you know you are worth it.
8 October 2013
SEVEN RESOLUTIONS ALL BAG-CARRIERS MAKE IN OCTOBER
(none of which make it to Christmas)
The return of the House after the Conference recess produces a response in bag-carriers not entirely dissimilar to that in children returning to school. After the comparative lethargy of the summer, the autumn heralds a new beginning and with it new resolutions: work harder, eat more healthily, and generally become the sort of popular, impressive person who can ask out Jenny from English Lit without her laughing in your face.
So here are the top seven resolutions all bag-carriers make and it’s important to remember that it’s the fact that we tried that counts.
1. Spend more time campaigning
You went to conference, you set the worlds to rights with like-minded types and you listened – enraptured – as your leader set out their vision for your party. High on political idealism, free booze, and something nasty you picked up from a questionable fish canapé, you resolve to spend more time on campaigning and taking the message to the doorstep. In your mind at that moment you are an intrepid warrior, winning over detractors by your sparkling wit and political insight, whilst “Eye of the Tiger” plays in the background, and afterwards you will tweet about how “The weather was cold but the welcome was warm on the #doorstep!” The reality of arguing with racists whilst trying not to punch the annoying (but highly ambitious) teenaged womble you’ve been paired with usually ensures that you don’t go back after your first session.
2. Work on your office’s press strategy
It has become apparent that your approach to the press might need improving and you’ve come to the conclusion that putting on a husky accent and pretending to be the Italian Embassy whenever the papers get in touch is not a sustainable solution in the long run. MPs gonna MP; they are going to have “brilliant ideas” that will backfire and cause pain and suffering (usually to you) and you are going to need mechanisms in place to deal with the fallout.
There are three basic rules of press management. First, get on with your local papers. Although they will undoubtedly be interested in guffawing at any gaffes from your boss – show me a journalist who isn’t – they are also useful allies on issues that affect the constituency, and often get the scoops on local matters before they trickle through to the elected representative. Second, deploy the spokesman. If the boss has done something wacky, it’s best to try and remove them from the situation by issuing a quote from you as their spokesman. Always think about your line carefully and call the journalist back with a considered response in order to avoid the paper printing that a spokesperson, when asked for comment, said, “Oh Christ, he really did that? That’s it; I’m putting a lead on him.”
The third rule is the most important: don’t let your MP get lubricated and loose-lipped in the earshot of enterprising members of the media in Commons bars. Realistically, however, there’s not an awful lot you can do about this one and that is why, come November, you’ll be back to pretending your name is Alfonso at 5pm on a Friday when the Sunday papers call.
3. Healthy body, healthy mind
The “Parliament Challenge” is the attempt to eat three, fat sodden meals, in the Commons cafeterias. For staff in constituency offices, the equivalent is alternating between varying pasty shops because you’re embarrassed that the staff think your addiction to sausage rolls is something you should seek help for. Either way, your expanding girth as a result has meant that your waistband is developing a razor-like quality and when, if not the start of a new term, is a better time to do something about it?
Filled with enthusiasm, you purchase Tupperware, salad, lean chicken, and those weird bean things that cost about ten quid for a small pot but all the celebs swear by. The first couple of days go well – you prepare your lunch the night before – and you are feeling so smug about your new health kick that by Thursday, you’re actually beginning to annoy yourself. You decide to have a “day off” on Friday, start with a fry-up and that’s the end of that for another twelve months. At Christmas you will excavate the lean chicken from the back of your fridge where it has attained sentience and is attempting to rally an army.
4. Spending every night in the pub is not a social life
Anybody who has ever worked for a politician knows that booze is often the best – nay, only – response to your boss being caught on tape referring to their party leader as “bumface”. Life without a “cheeky one” to take the edge off a long day at the coalface of political bag-carrying would be a life of torment without respite. However, over the months you’ve noticed that the “Cheeky One Principle” is increasingly being stretched to the very limits of its definition, and you can’t remember the last time you’ve been at your desk at 9am unaccompanied by a weapons-grade hangover.
Furthermore, far from being proud that the bar staff know to start pouring your tipple of choice for your arrival at six sharp, you are increasingly getting embarrassed by the knowledge that what you spent on beer last year would have provided a deposit for a central London flat.
A campaign to cut back begins! Which will last precisely until your boss is let loose in the constituency and manages to wrap a lollipop lady around his bumper in front of a gaggle of horrified school kids … and a local journalist.
5. Improve your sartorial standards
I confess to being rather fond of my t-shirt that is emblazoned with the legend, “Welcome to Midsomer: killing white folk since 1997” and have, on occasion, worn it into the office – after all, Friday is the day for dressing down. But you’ve noticed that you’ve been letting standards slip of recent months, and the group of constituents you gave a tour to in your hilarious top with the swear displayed prominently certainly gave the impression they found your clothing choices somewhat south of completely professional.
Furthermore, the winter clobber has been at the back of the wardrobe since March and – even after dusting your suit off, dry cleaning it, and the judicious application of permanent marker over a cigarette-related scorch mark – you have to admit that it all looks rather shabby.
All your disposable income after payday is duly expended in a sharp wardrobe that says (you hope) “smart, up-and-coming go getter” but after a week of hilarious jokes on the subject of your transformation from your colleagues – “What is it? Funeral or court appearance har har?” you revert back to jeans and trainers.
It’s not like you’re allowed out of the office much anyway.
6. Keep up to date with the casework
The Parliamentary aide’s equivalent of resolving to do all your casework on time, this one is an October staple. The bread-and-butter of any MP’s job description, the casework is simultaneously the most important job and the one that can get rather unwieldy.
By the time the summer recess is here, most bag-carriers are using the power of the Force to will that the tottering pile of cases not fall over, and completely subsume the office, but the long summer allows most of us to catch up and even get ahead on that pesky correspondence. Yet, with the best will in the world, it’s difficult to keep the minute ramifications of each constituent’s beef in your head, especially if your MP is prone to impromptu street surgeries or suddenly discovering an unanswered wodge of letters from April under their fridge.
This resolution lasts as long as you are able to keep a handle on the organised system you devised whilst your boss was offline over the summer.
Don’t hold your breath.
7. Life after bag-carrying
All good things come to an end, or at least they should. Another October, another reminder that yet another year has passed and you have nothing to show for it but a few extra wrinkles and a cutting from the diary section of a national paper detailing your boss’ hilarious – if arguably ill-advised remarks – to a group of OAPs.
Time is moving on, and none of us are getting any younger so now is a great time to have a look around to see what’s out there. Is there a job going as a political advisor, which is a sort of Gold Plated Bag-Carrier with additional swaggering rights? Or perhaps you could look into public affairs? Are there any charities who require assistance?
The world is your oyster people!
Yeah, see you next October.
If you found that irresistible then all of Dean’s other ‘thoughts’ are still available here.