A cuckoo in the duck island

Well, as if Livia’s diary wasn’t enough we now have this offering from Sally – another dedicated staffer doing everything she possibly can to smooth the path between her boss, Gerrard Appleby MP, and his long-suffering constituents. But….all is not as it seems. Well, it wouldn’t be, would it.

Sally has promised to keep us in touch with developments. Watch out for another instalment early in 2012.

W4MP Ed.

A cuckoo in the duck island

Duck Island by Maxim Thompson. Created 24th August
Duck Island by Maxim Thompson. Created 24th August

Lift shutter. Unlock door – the lock always bloody sticks –  kick the weekend’s post to one side. Switch off alarm. Answerphone’s blinking – 26 messages. Need tea. Find kettle. Argh, milk’s off..

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It’s 8:45am. Who calls their MP at 8:45am?

“Good morning, Gerrard Appleby MP’s office….”

“No, I’m afraid the MP is unavailable right now, he’s in Westminster today.”

“Well, you could always visit him at one of his advice surgeries.”

“Certainly, if I take your details I’ll be in touch when the next advice surgery is in the diary.”.

I’m not quite sure when the next advice surgery will be, but I don’t tell the old lady on the other end of the phone that.

Another call.  An immigration case this time – unusual in this part of the world – but nonetheless I take the gentleman’s details and assure him that Mr Appleby is on the case.

“Yes sir, I do agree that it’s ridiculous that the UK Border Agency has taken 7 months to decide whether or not your newborn baby has leave to remain in the UK.  No sir, I don’t think it’s likely she’ll be deported.” 

Though in this day and age one can never be sure…

Another call demanding to speak to the MP.

“We never see him around here, he’s just like all the others – I know all about his duck island flipping you know.” 

The mind boggles.

I take her details, I’m courteous and helpful, I do everything I can to assure her that her Member of Parliament is a paragon of virtue; hard working and scrupulously honest, worth every penny of the £200,000+ a year he costs the taxpayer.

I do not however tell her that he is dead, and has been for three months.

But then nobody seems to care anyway.


I’m Sally.  27,  PPE, Oxford, MA in International Relations at the LSE, £27,532 in hock to the Student Loans Company and the Royal Bank of Scotland.  I’m an extremely lucky girl. I’ve had one of the best educations money can buy, I live in a society where I can choose my career and life path and live an independent and fulfilling life.  I live in one of the few countries in the world that has had a female prime minister (though the rest of the world is now catching up pretty rapidly).  The world is my oyster.  I can be anything or anyone I want to be. And I want to become a politician. A Member of Parliament to be precise.

Or that’s what I wanted 4 years ago when I started interning in the office of the Rt Hon Gerrard Appleby, Member of Parliament for West Twittering and Chode, party grandee, business minister, raconteur, humanitarian and outrageous flirt. Weak heart too as it transpires…

“You’ll learn a lot!” he told me on that first day.  And I have. I’ve learned that people rely on help from their Member of Parliament more than anyone realises, and that most caseworkers and parliamentary researchers care more about looking after constituents (even the mad ones) than they do about party politics.  After a while your preconceived political beliefs come up against the cold hard reality of the world in all it’s chaotic glory – and it’s a bit of an arse.

There are other things I’ve learned over the past four years.  Or been told rather. By parents, friends, the public, and the media. Mostly the media.  I now know that being a caseworker for an MP isn’t a ‘real job’ or even in the ‘real world’ (whatever that is).  We’re all careerists, professional politicians from the day we’re born, with no understanding of the world outside of the Westminster bubble (quick note to readers, I rarely, if ever, go to Westminster) and that all MPs are crooks and cheats.  And I’ve learned that anyone who really wants to be an MP is coincidentally completely and totally unsuitable for the job (this one is actually about 82% true).

I don’t want to be an MP any more. But since the ‘accident’ I’ve done a surprisingly good job of pretending to be one. And nobody, not even Karl the swish ‘Senior Parliamentary Advisor to Rt Hon Gerald Appleby MP’ up in Westminster, has noticed.


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Good afternoon, Gerrard Appleby MP’s office.”
….

Yes, I’m very sorry he wasn’t able to make the last advice surgery, but I take it you saw the letter he sent on your behalf?” 
….
“…no, I can assure you Mr Norris, it was not a printed signature, he just has a very assured cursive writing style.”

“Yes, it is most unusual…No, I don’t think he had a traumatic incident in his childhood.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear it all worked out well, I shall pass on your thanks to Mr Appleby.” 

It’s not just me in the constituency office, but it may as well be.  I’ve got the local party organiser Geoff to keep me company.  Volunteers like Geoff are the backbone of our democracy: dedicated, hard working, generous, friendly, and barking mad.  When he’s not in the office or out delivering leaflets, he’s recreating battles with the Wenchingham Historical Reenactment Society.  He showed me his halbard once.

For Geoff politics is just like war, and he’s forever pouring over ward maps and speculating about the strategy and tactics required to take back the West Twittering Parish Council from the Farmers for Justice/Bitch ‘n’ Stitch coalition, which has maintained a vice-like grip on local politics since the village fete expenses scandal of ‘09 rocked the local political landscape.

“No I can assure you sir anything you tell me is kept in the strictest confidence…I am employed by Mr Appleby to act on his behalf when he is unavailable.

“I can assure you sir I do not live in the ‘Westminster bubble’ – I am very much a member of the ‘real world’.
….
“Well if you are a good friend then you can get in touch with him directly. I presume you have his mobile phone number and I can end this call?

“Certainly sir, I’ll see you at 3.30pm this afternoon.”

Christ. 2 o’clock and I’ve been on the phone all day. I glance over at the towering pile of correspondence that’s come in over the weekend. Best get started, but first, a quick twitter update.  The constituents Need To Know their MP is Working Hard For Them.

I log into the bosses twitter account – @GizDeBizMP – a hangover from his days as the Enterprise and Business Minister – and have a quick think.  How would a 58 year old veteran MP and technology minister go about this?

“Jst gt back from advice surjery. No1 trned up. Well lame. LOLZ”

Sounds about right.

The fax machine whirs.  I wander idly over and pick up the first sheet.

“I know what you did.”

An icy fear grips me – how could anyone know? I’ve been so careful…

“I know your secret.  I know your dark truth.”

It’s impossible, I’ve taken precautions, destroyed the evidence.  I scan down the page in a panic.

“I know it was you, in the garden, sellotaping bacon to my cat and sending me messages through the TV. 

Ah, it’s only ‘MI5 man’.  Panic over.

Still, I resolve to go back and check the spot where I buried the Hon. Member for West Twittering and Chode as soon as it gets dark.

Now, time for the afternoon advice surgery.  Fixed smile, excuses ready.

“Good afternoon….Yes, I’m afraid Mr Appleby can’t make the advice surgery today, but I’m here to help in his place.  Now, what’s the problem…?”

Sally – November 2011

The second instalment of Sally’s Diary – ‘Don’t panic! – Sally’s guide to taking your MP out for the day’ is now available here.


Added 16 November 2011