Before we begin, I would like to send a shout-out to all Parliamentary and constituency interns. Like the bag-carriers they assist, this brave and noble breed operate at the sharp end of our System of Democratic Freedom That Has Existed Since the Magna Carta (copyright, Henry Porter); theirs, like ours, is a life of unpredictable MPs, shouty constituents, endless correspondence and questionable romantic encounters after too many pints of Spitfire in the Sports and Social.
Like us they fight these daily battles, and for what? Rarely a handful of magic beans, dear reader, rarely a handful of magic beans. Even bag-carriers (poorly paid as we are) are able to earn enough to keep the House of Commons bars in business, and there’s probably a long forgotten Parliamentary edict that allows us to graze a herd of goats on College Green should we ever manifest the desire to do so. But interns? They are often paid the square root of bugger-all.
So this piece is dedicated to the Parliamentary slave galley of unpaid interns, without whose mammoth efforts this democratic ship would have sunk long before now.
The uniform: One assumes that the only way this intern can afford to work in Parliament is by providing their bodies as a form of walking advertisement for all the most expensive clothing brands. Offices that had hitherto contained staff and MPs clad in such designer labels as “Burton” and “Tescos” suddenly have to grapple with such concepts as “Prada” and “Burberry.”
Reign of Terror: Often, having paid a ferocious amount of money to what is effectively an introduction agency (none of which either the MP or the intern ever sees again), you can usually expect the intern to initially manifest some enthusiasm for the tasks at hand. Come day three, they will have cottoned on that they are legally allowed to drink at 18 years old in Blighty, after which their appearances in the office become later and more sporadic. By the end of their term of service, the rather battered and overweight individual sat slumped dribbling over the mail bears almost no resemblance to the perky young person who arrived bubbling with enthusiasm some weeks previously.
Ideal boss: Lembit Opik MP.
Most likely to say: “Like ohmigod! I was, like, soooooooo drunk last night!”
Least likely to say: “I am really annoyed I missed Today in Parliament last night – they were doing a special on the democratic advisability of statutory instruments. Any chance we can turn off the Jeremy Kyle Show and stream it through the computer instead?”
Lloyd George Screwed My Mother/Father
The uniform: Anything they damn well please. Don’t you KNOW who they are?
Reign of Terror: It is, in fact, a myth that the hereditary principle no longer exists in the Houses of Parliament: it merely exists in the internship system rather than the House of Lords, as previously. The intern of this type may not be up to speed on the basics – such as who the Prime Minister is and which party is in Government – but they do have a Very Important surname. Within a few minutes of arriving (and having made clear that they are there for the CV points rather than to do any work) they will have sent your pathetically star-struck boss off to get them a coffee. By the time they arrive back, your office will have been taken over by curiously over-coiffed student politician types with names like Jeremy, who will all be laughing uproariously at your intern’s crap jokes as he or she holds a Royal Court amidst the piles of your casework. Don’t expect them to do any of that, by the way. Don’t you KNOW who they are?
Ideal boss: Any of the Benn dynasty.
Most likely to say: “My Daddy says …”
Least likely to say: “Has anyone seen my copy of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists?”
The uniform: A nondescript suit, thick spectacles, and a permanent frown.
Reign of Terror: The Professor will have just graduated from a suitably complicated sounding degree or post-grad, and has taken an internship because they are of the mistaken view that acting as an unpaid bag-carrier for a couple of months will give them a unique insight into the inner workings of our democratic system. Whilst somewhat confused that their major tasks seem to revolve around filing, tea making, photocopying and retrieving the boss’s pager from various lavatories over the Parliamentary estate, they maintain an admirable interest in all things political if not the more mundane aspects of life as a staffer.
Ideal boss: Michael Gove MP
Most likely to say: “I know you’re in the middle of a media storm, that the boss has lost his mobile phone, and you’re three weeks behind with your casework, but have you got a moment to discuss the role of Select Committee chairmen from 1983 to present day?”
Least likely to say: “Christ, look at the baps on that!”
The Booze Hound
The uniform: An ensemble that looks like it was laundered circa the general election before last comprising of a pair of nasty jeans, a T-shirt bearing the legend “HONK IF YOU BONK” and socks which have each developed their own ecosystem. The Booze Hound will also have permanently bloodshot eyes and a somewhat dazed expression.
The Reign of Terror: As soon as they’ve discovered the House of Commons bars, expect little or nothing out of your intern after about lunchtime on a Thursday. Whilst excellent company and often the life and soul of the party, they will have a habit of getting themselves into drink related scrapes so be prepared to be on hand at 2am to bail them out of the Commons police cells and deal with a seemingly endless parade of their one-night stands as they troop mournfully past your office wailing, “But last night you said you loved me!” as your intern cowers behind the filing cabinet, injecting Red Bull into their eyeball.
Ideal boss: Boris Johnson MP.
Most likely to say: “Come on! It’s 5pm somewhere.”
Least likely to say: “Only a diet coke for me – I’m on the wagon.”
The Work Horse
The uniform: Sensible shoes, sturdy shoulders, and ink-stained fingers.
Reign of Terror: After blonde young ladies with huge breasts, the Work Horse is the intern that every bag-carrier dreams of having in heir office. Inexplicably keen to learn how the filing system works and how to respond to constituents’ enquiries, this individual takes a bizarre delight in completing every single mundane task given to them. They are the first into the office and the last out, and never let the tide go down in your tea-cup nor the sun set on a piece of correspondence.
Ideal boss: Richard Bacon MP.
Most likely to say: “Is that another letter written in green ink? Pass it over here, I’ll do it.”
Least likely to say: “With all due respect, I can’t be arsed.”
The Single White Female
The uniform: Smartly dressed with hair tied firmly back (laydeez) or gelled into submission (gents).
Reign of Terror: Although they initially appear enthusiastic – if a little on the weird side – the slide of your office into a scene from one of those films that always seem to have Michael Douglas in them has already begun. You become aware of them watching you closely; they say that they are just keen to learn the ropes. They start grabbing at the phone to answer it before it rings; they just say they are being helpful. You wonder why your friends don’t call you anymore; it’s because they are out schmoozing with your intern. Before you know it, they are breaking the sound barrier to get the Boss’s coffee and are offering to give him or her a back-rub because they are “very busy and important. It’s natural that you’re stressed.” The MP is smitten and you are out of a job, friends, and possibly even your other half.
Ideal boss: I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
Most likely to say: “Yes, my Master.”
Least likely to say: Anything that is within the definition of “normal.”
So, which are you?
All pictures from Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons or in Public Domain
Fashion Victim: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkspleen/2115456298/ Pσrcelαΐηgΐrl (cc)
Lloyd George: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pingnews/482200338/ public domain
Professor: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamaiyuya/157223187/ Yuya Tamai’s (cc)
Booze Hound: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10604632@N02/1800856327/ by curran.kelleher (cc)
Work Horse: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dimmick/118883365/ by Bill Dimmick (cc)
Single White Female: http://www.flickr.com/photos/repoort/2099500567/ by Repoort (cc)
Added by Dean Trench on 28th January 2008