You’ve taken the advice in part 1 of this guide – your MP hasn’t gone anywhere near the post, the diary has stayed in your capable hands and the filing system is the very model of efficiency. But don’t sit back and relax just yet.
There are five words guaranteed to quicken your pulse and bring on a slow burning sensation in your lower digestive tract that no amount of Gaviscon can ease: ‘I’ve had a GREAT idea!’
This is a little known fact, but after an MP takes the Parliamentary oath a procedure takes place behind the Speaker’s Chair, away from the cameras, whereby a small device is implanted in the new MP’s brain that produces small pearls of wisdom each week.
It’s a relatively new practice. As the last few decades have seen fewer voters supporting one party all their lives, a plot had to be devised to enable MPs to come up with new and original ideas to help raise their profiles and work that personal vote.
The operation has been carefully refined over the last few years so that the initial thoughts bear fruit around 5pm each Sunday, and by the time your boss arrives in Parliament on Monday they are fully-fledged plans.
Standard procedure, as the latest idea is unveiled, is to nod dutifully while edging slowly towards the door. The moment your boss’s head is turned take your chance and GO! Don’t even think about looking back until you’ve hit the M25.
However if you would like to stay a bit longer in the job without the prospect of losing all your hair, you can prepare for some of the most common ‘brainwaves’.
4. NEVER let your MP get down with the kids.
While it’s all very well to go after the yoof vote, getting elected Secretary of the All Party Group on the Arctic Monkeys to elevate their street cred will seriously backfire. Remember how well it went down when they trotted off to a pensioners’ event sporting a blue rinse and pearls while merrily waving a copy of Saga Magazine?
Once they’ve decided that they’re with ‘da kids’, the next thing you know they’re quoting Ali G at PMQs, insisting you shout ‘Boss I didn’t know you could get down like that!’ whenever you’re in public and asking you to arrange for a popular beat combo from this week’s hit parade to play in the Portcullis atrium one lunchtime. You need to stop this nonsense RIGHT NOW.
You might well catch yourself thinking how much fun it would be to organise a live music session in the Mother of all Parliaments but remember this: suggest booking ‘Peter, Bjorn and John’ ‘cos you’ve found that’s what the kids are digging these days (see how you’ve also started talking in your own special form of young person’s vernacular?) and your boss will still insist that ‘Peter, Paul and Mary’ would be better. It will all end in tears (mainly yours) and neither you nor your MP will be able to leave the office ever again.
5. NEVER let your MP near your computer.
Granted, some MPs are scarily up to speed with technology but chances are your boss’s last foray into the world of computing was watching a Tomorrow’s World report on BBC Micros that concluded with Maggie Philbin marvelling that ‘maybe one day every school could have one!’
Until now your MP has always walked rather cautiously past your PC happy to let you ‘get on with it’, but not since the day that Members Tearoom was all abuzz with talk of this new Facebook thingy that everyone’s using. Suddenly your computer doesn’t look so scary now and your boss is convinced that social networking is a great way to reach out to constituents and show their fellow MPs just how with it they are.
They will want your help setting up a Facebook profile but from then on, they’re on their own. Within the first five minutes of their virtual adventures they’ll have successfully added a rather more computer-savvy Secretary of State as a friend but will then start tinkering with the ‘My questions’ application and inadvertently ask him if he kisses on the first date. They’re delighted to be inundated with friend requests from local students but have neglected to alter the privacy settings so the holiday snaps that show them parading around in a bathing suit that can only be described as ‘misjudged’ no longer conjure up such carefree moments now they’ve started the rounds of cyberspace. And to cap it all their spouse has left a message on their ‘wall’ so that the entire world now knows your MP’s pet name is ‘wubbles’. Let’s just see how the opposite (and even their own) benches deal with that one next time your boss is in the Chamber.
You can start to undo some of the damage by removing the giant post-its your MP made you put on your PC to remind them where the ‘on’ button was and gently remind them that maybe they should stick to what they’re really good at (note: flattery goes a long way). But there is really only one thing you can do in this situation – do whatever it takes (seriously – move Heaven and Earth) to stop them hearing the word ‘blog’.
6. NEVER let your MP go for hotly-contested posts after two weeks in Parliament.
Yes, they may have just overturned a huge majority to become the party’s first MP to represent the seat in 60 years and yes, they may be a rising star tipped by The Guardian, no less, as future Cabinet material, but these heady moments must be kept in check.
Now is not the time to impress their constituents and parliamentary colleagues by standing against the incumbent Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party or 1922 Committee. Neither do they want to challenge the sitting Chair of a high-profile Select Committee.
Not only will they lose (badly) but they will hamper their chances of future promotion and ensure that they spend all their remaining time in Parliament being addressed by everyone from fellow MPs, researchers and interns as ‘sonny’.
It won’t do much for your future prospects either…
Added: 21 January 2008