What Kind of MP Do You Work For? A reference guide for bag-carriers

Coolhaus prepackaged sammies, assorted flavors
Coolhaus prepackaged sammies, assorted flavors

In alt.guides passim, readers will have picked up that, although Members of Parliament come in many shapes and sizes, they nonetheless share an alarming number of similarities. What bag-carrier hasn’t elicited nods of weary sympathy from fellow staffers in the Sports and Social when they regale them with tales of their boss’ latest “brilliant idea”? What office has been left untainted by memories of ambitious press calls on College Green that have ended in a bawling out from the regional whip and the hospitalisation of several unsuspecting tourists?

But it would be wrong to claim that, in the phrase beloved of disgruntled constituents everywhere, “they are all the same.” This is far from the case, as Dean Trench examines in our latest guide which looks at the different types of elected representatives who stalk the corridors of power, and how a well-briefed bag-carrier can handle with them successfully without resorting to a bottle of whiskey and a loaded revolver.

Read on and be educated.

THE TOWER OF RAGE

'm not angry, just me messin' around on a cold winter afternoon. Stobist Info: AB600 in large soft box camera left Cheap bare studio strrobe camera left and behind me AB600 and large umbrella camera right. Lots of texturing and layering till it creeped me out. Author: Every Way. 21st December 2008
‘m not angry, just me messin’ around on a cold winter afternoon. Stobist Info: AB600 in large soft box camera left. Cheap bare studio strrobe camera left and behind me. AB600 and large umbrella camera right. Lots of texturing and layering till it creeped me out. Author: Every Way. 21st December 2008

Personality: A volcano perpetually on the verge of eruption. Whether it is the Government proposals on Marine Conservation Zones or staff “breathing too loudly”, the Tower of Rage will react to the smallest of political stimuli with the sort of screaming fit not usually seen outside of Naomi Campbell’s dressing room.

Dress code: A sartorial style that tends towards the military, red face, a twitching lip, and a dangerously bulging eyeball.

Most likely to say: “You … did … WHAT?!” Followed, if you’re really unlucky, by the whistle of an incoming stapler.

Least likely to say: “Don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes.”

Suggested tactics for staff: Keep your head down, your chatter low, and have an emergency wind-break stashed somewhere in the office which can be erected to stop specks of spittle drenching you when they start on an abuse-laden rant.  

THE KNIFE-LICKER

Troll conspiracy theorist. Original design. Author: Durova
Troll conspiracy theorist. Original design. Author: Durova

Personality: Sees conspiracy behind every colonnade in the House of Commons, and prone to making statements that include dark mutterings about how “they” are out to silence him. Will spend a lot of time darting around the Parliamentary Estate making cryptic comments about the involvement of Mossad in the Statutory Instrument on the thickness of toilet paper in the Department for Work and Pensions, and attempting to collar senior Ministers in an attempt to fill them in on the details of the latest dastardly plot they’ve uncovered. Will almost certainly have a blog.

Dress code: Tin-foil hat and wielding a copy of “The Truth About Roswell”

Most likely to say: “That’s what They WANT you to think!”

Least likely to say: “I’m going to think very carefully before revealing live on Sky my theory on how one of my constituents is actually a twelve-foot lizard, cunningly disguised as a sixty-year old granny who knits in her lunch break.”

Suggested tactics for staff: Trying to keep the hysteria out of your voice and the terror out of your smile when they order you to issue a press release explaining that Elvis is alive and well and running a DIY shop in Penge.

THE BRAIN

Professor Lucifer Butts
Professor Lucifer Butts by Rube Goldberg, 1915.

Personality: This Member of Parliament rarely causes staff too much trouble. Not for them the media stunts or “brilliant ideas” of their colleagues, they are more likely to be leafing through a nine thousand word pamphlet on what Britain can learn from the regeneration of the butterfly farming industry in Outer Patagonia.

Dress code: An other-worldly expression, a tie with a large ink stain on it, a badly fitting suit and a pair of glasses. Probably held together with sellotape.

Most likely to say: “I’ve been looking forward all day to reading the Hansard of the four hour debate on Composting in Bangor!”

Least likely to say: “Anyone fancy going along to the karaoke in the Sports and Social?”

Suggested tactics for staff: A job lot of Red Bull on ice should he or she feel the need to explain to you, in minute detail, their latest thoughts on any of their favourite policy areas. Also, keep on standby a collection of get-out clauses should said lectures threaten to extend beyond home time. The Brain is usually firmly installed on a different level to us ordinary mortals, so exclamations such as, “gotta go Boss, my rhino needs to get its teeth looked at!” will work fine if you have exhausted more conventional excuses.

THE MOUTH

Poster from the Ministry of Information's "Careless Talk Costs Lives". Sourced From The UK National Archives
Poster from the Ministry of Information’s “Careless Talk Costs Lives”. Sourced From The UK National Archives

Personality: Widely regarded by members of the 24-hour media as a Godsend, the Mouth can turn from novice to expert on any issue under the sun merely by the slightest application of journalistic flattery.

Dress code: A “zany” tie, violently clashing suit, and a mobile phone with the name and number of every journalist from here to the eastern regions of Kazakhstan programmed into their speed dial.

Most likely to say: “College Green in five minutes? But I won’t have time to go into make-up!”

Least likely to say: “No, I’ll pass on that media opportunity if you don’t mind. I know nothing about the issue.”

Suggested tactics for staff: Always carry with you a tube of breath mints and a good quality foundation cream in case of unexpected press bids. Also, in the event of a camera crew wanting to film your boss looking statesmanlike in your boss’ office, be prepared to subtly remove the framed picture of him trying to muscle in on a photocall with Berwick over-eighties nudist leapfrog team. Just in case it might not lend the required gravitas to his Churchillian stylings.

THE PEDANT

Cartoon of students receiving the cane, 28 July 1888. Queensland Figaro
Cartoon of students receiving the cane, 28 July 1888. Queensland Figaro

Personality: This MP will spend their entire life marking your policy letters in the manner of a particularly exacting headmaster. For them, nothing is more important than setting the correct tone in the voluminous communications they expect issued from their office on a daily basis, even if they are in response to a one-line email from Doreen McMad calling them a “useless sack of excrement.”

Dress code: Bi-focal glasses that can be peered over the top of and pursed lips.

Most likely to say: “On the fourteenth page of this letter, you’re missing a comma. Is this what I pay you for?”

Least likely to say: “Postcard campaign? Bin ‘em. If they can’t be bothered to write to me properly, I can’t be bothered to write back. Fancy a beer?”

Suggested tactics for staff: You’ll need limitless patience, a book on etiquette, a thesaurus and dictionary, a willingness to spend all day hunched over your keyboard, and a reward card for your local chiropractor.

THE OLD SOAK

Georg Schodenerer Hellmut Andics, Das österreichische Jahrhundert .Die Donaumonarchie 1804-1918 (Vienna: Molden, 1974).
Georg Schodenerer
Hellmut Andics, Das österreichische Jahrhundert .Die Donaumonarchie 1804-1918 (Vienna: Molden, 1974).

Personality: The principles that led to tear stained and impassioned speeches on the stump when he or she was running for election are now but a distant memory. As are, it must be said, the events of the morning subsequent to the pubs opening. The Old Soak is a genial Parliamentarian, always ready with a friendly word or an offer to “get them in” and enjoys ensuring constituents that they are involved in many All Party Groups (mainly if they relate to licensed premises) and that they are a strong believer in personal freedom (for example, the freedom to smoke in said licensed premises).

Dress code: They don’t have a fondness for linen, it’s simply that their suit hasn’t been washed or ironed properly since 1983. Will also be sporting a tie stained with brown ale and will be expansively sloshing around a pint.

Most likely to say: “You’re my bescht mate, you are. Fancy another?”

Least likely to say: “I’d love to get involved in the All Party Group on Lots of Boozing, but what about my Parliamentary commitments?”

Suggested tactics for staff: “Hello operator, Strangers’ Bar please. Oh, hey Bert, it’s Jim McGin’s office here. You got him with you? Oh right, cool I’ll try there. Love to Mary and the kids and thanks for the Christmas card.”

THE PERVERT

Tile, by Walter T. Crane. Purchased with funds given by Barbara Jakobson. Donated by Brooklyn Museum
Tile, by Walter T. Crane. Purchased with funds given by Barbara Jakobson. Donated by Brooklyn Museum

Personality: In any other walk of life, The Pervert would be an object of ridicule. But, in the words of the cliché, power is an aphrodisiac and this individual can usually expect to score disproportionately well via the use of buttock-clenchingly bad chat-up lines, the deployment of which would make a sex-starved fourteen year boy think twice. Members of the opposite sex who are charmed into bed by tales of The Pervert’s oratorical genius in the debate on the Polish Potato Order are said to be wearing the “Parliament Goggles.”

Dress code: A designer suit, eyes that can wander in fourteen different directions simultaneously, and perpetually surrounded by a bevy of impossibly attractive staffers who have a room-temperature IQ. Between them.

Most likely to say: “Well, HELLO! Can I give you my card?”

Least likely to say: “Listen Ms Knightley … okay, can I call you Keira? Listen Keira: I appreciate you really wanting to spend three months following me around and making the tea, and obviously appreciate that you are not asking for any money and are prepared to undertake tasks that are well beyond the call of duty whilst working late. But I already have a researcher – he’s called Brian, he’s 48, and spends his weekends at political workshops – and I really don’t need another one. Now please stop calling this office.”

Suggested tactics for staff: Vet all internship candidates to make sure none could inadvertently precipitate a sexual harassment charge should they be employed, and develop a good relationship with your trade union representative.

So, all that remains to be said is this: which one do you work for?


Added by Dean Trench 1 July 2009