Hi there! I’m Charlotte, a third year undergraduate Human Geography student with a passion for politics. This is my first blog post about my experiences of work placements in London, and I hope to follow this up with many more. As the Vice President of the university’s Geography Society I will also occasionally be blogging about our various academic and social events. Happy reading!
If someone had told me two years ago that I would soon be walking the corridors of the British parliamentary buildings I’d have probably laughed and praised them for an excellent joke. Two years later, however, and I’m getting work experience placements that involve shadowing some of the most prolific politicians in Britain. Just one great thing gained from studying in a city of opportunity.
My latest work shadow post saw me spending the day with the Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and MP for Leigh. Having previously worked with Andy before, it was an experience I knew would be interesting, hectic and incredibly valuable; I was right.
The first couple of hours of the day were spent at the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children in Finsbury, North London. Accompanied by the Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Andy was there to help celebrate International Stuttering Awareness Day. It was an incredibly insightful visit, as many of the children that we met had gone on an incredibly difficult journey to get to that point in their treatment. Ed Balls is a patron himself but mentioned that he had been trying to get Andy to visit so that he could appreciate the hard work himself that is undertaken by parents, children and staff alike. The amount of publicity that was gained simply by the visit of two politicians confirmed for me the important role and standing the job holds within society. Just a brief chat with staff and a photo opportunity can result in a boost in funding for those who really need it the most.
As the day of my placement was a Wednesday there was a short period of time I couldn’t spend with Andy as he had to be in the House for Prime Minister’s Questions. Luckily I was able to watch the debate from the viewing gallery so my time wasn’t wasted. Once the debates and questions had ended quite a lot of time was then spent in Andy’s office with his various members of political staff. The day of my work placement also coincided with the release of the NHS 5-year plan, making for a hectic day of press releases, political strategy, meetings and interviews. Due to a confidentiality agreement signed at the start of my work experience placements I am unable to discuss much of the finer detail, but with the upcoming general election of 2015 potentially being won or lost by policies relating to the NHS the work and discussions I was there to assist with may prove to be influential in the not so distant future. A prospect which I think is incredibly exciting.
People often look shocked when I talk about these work placement opportunities I get, many thinking I had to undergo a rigorous application process in order to be successful in getting them. The truth is, I just asked and hoped for the best. Before I came to Queen Mary there was no way I would have had the confidence to “just ask”, but I soon realised that the worst that can happen is they can say no. I am yet to be denied a work placement from a politician, with some even agreeing to help me with my dissertation. They are often portrayed as an alien group, inaccessible to the public. I have constantly found that the opposite is actually the case. One thing I know for sure, however, is that if I didn’t live in London, half of the work/life experiences I have had so far would not have been achievable. Living and studying in this truly international city is an opportunity in itself.