Five ways to see if your MP provides value for money

Published in The Huffington Post on 11th July, 2013.

The issue of how much we should pay our elected representatives is again causing debate and outrage. Having worked in Parliament, I have seen firsthand that many MPs work incredibly hard, are committed to improving the lives of their constituents and are involved in politics for the right reasons (Steve Rotheram immediately springs to mind).

That said, I have also come across too many MPs who have only minimal interaction with their constituency and who are lazy, arrogant and vastly unfit for office. Some MPs in safe seats – those that are unlikely to ever lose an election because the support for their party outstrips the opposition – simply do not need to put the hours in because they know they have a job for life.

The appropriateness of giving MPs a £6000 pay rise at a time of economic stagnation and when a lot of people, especially those in the public sector, are really suffering, will understandably dominate the headlines.

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The clocks have gone back. It’s now 1990

Published in The Huffington Post on Sunday, 30th October, 2011.

As we enter November and leave British Summer Time behind, we reach the 21st anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as prime minister. Despite the melodrama of more recent political events, it is hard to imagine what Westminster must have been like in the three weeks between Geoffrey Howe quitting the cabinet and Thatcher being forced from office. Or is it?

The issue of Britain’s place within Europe was dominating the political agenda. An unpopular prime minister had suffered a damaging rebellion from her own party. The Tories were trailing in the polls. The economy was inching towards a recession. And a high profile member of the cabinet had just resigned.

Far from being unique, this has an eerily familiar feel.

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The toxic ‘E’ word: 21 years on, the Tories learnt nothing from Geoffrey Howe

Published in Total Politics Magazine on Tuesday, 1st November, 2011.

Even by Westminster’s standards, the past week has been bizarre. Parliament has been engrossed by an puzzling backbench debate on the issue of Britain’s place within Europe. The House of Commons, the tea rooms and parliamentary bar have again been filled with non-stop chatter about the ‘E’ word. It culminated in David Cameron suffering a needless blow to his authority following the biggest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe.

As the economy risks sliding back into recession, the Tories appear to be transfixed on ideological profligacy rather than adopting a pragmatic approach to governing and dealing with more urgent realities.

This seems eerily familiar.

Today marks the twenty-first anniversary of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation. On 1 November 1990, the former Chancellor and Foreign Secretary quit the Conservative front bench and triggered a political tidal wave that ultimately led to Margaret Thatcher’s fall from office.

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Anti-Slavery Day 2011 – Ask Your MP to Support EDM 2257

Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

There are up to 30 million people around the world – including thousands in Britain – that remain enslaved today. Academics such as Kevin Bale suggest that there are more slaves today than at any other point in history. Tuesday, 18th October, 2011 will mark the UK’s Anti-Slavery Day and the European Union’s Anti-Trafficking Day. Mark Hendrick MP today tabled Early Day Motion 2257 in the House of Commons that sought to draw attention to Anti-Slavery and that called upon the government to take a more pro-active stance in the fight against slavery. If you would like your MP to support the motion, please write to them using the information before.

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Ed Miliband’s new Shadow Government in full (October 2011)

Following the changes that Ed Miliband made to Labour’s Shadow Government on October 7th, below is a full list of the new Shadow government. The list includes Shadow Secretaries of State (underlined), with Shadow Ministers listed below.

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Ed Miliband needs to address Labour’s talent deficit and add steel to the Shadow Cabinet

What's ahead for Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet?

Since the last General Election many of the heavy weights that dominated the New Labour political landscape have left the frontline of British politics. David Miliband, Alistair Darling, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw and of course Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown all stood down from Ministerial positions. This exodus followed the departure of people like John Prescott and John Reid who stood down when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister in 2007. This provided a welcome opportunity for new blood to come through – but it also intensified a talent deficit that is apparent right across Westminster as Labour lost a great deal of its front bench talent and institutional memory. The sheer dominance of Blair and Brown over the last twenty years has stifled the development of top class politicians. As a result, Ed Miliband’s Cabinet over the last twelve months has had a mixed record and has been relatively lacklustre in holding the Conservative government to account.

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Getting a job in Parliament: Tips for your CV

Regardless of where you are applying for a job, your CV is the single most important weapon in your armour. This is especially true if you are applying for a job with an MP. Unlike starting a career with a bank or with a council, there is no human resources department to handle the recruitment process. It is often down to the office manager or researcher to go through the CVs and make a decision about who to put through to the next stage (the MP probably wont see your CV until the interview ). It is unlikely that whoever is making a decision will read through every word on every CV – they will skim read and look for reasons to take the application seriously. Given the already considerable pressures on a researcher’s time (and the fact that a typical job in Parliament will easily attract between 150 and 200 applications), your CV has to stand out. Continue reading