My Week Work Experience at Westminster

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As I sat under the chimes of Big Ben I considered what a unique experience this was, a week work experience at Westminster. There are not many people that can say they have walked ‘the corridors of power’ and it wasn’t anything to do with luck or chance or an election that got me here.

Why Do Work Experience At Westminster?

As a Modern Studies teacher (politics and current affairs) it is expected that I have knowledge about political procedures and because I studied Social Policy at university I lacked some of that knowledge.

As every good student should – I filled that learning gap and arranged work experience at Westminster with my school’s local Member of Parliament (MP), Thomas Docherty (Labour).

Luckily for me, I have a good friend (Kaci) who was willing to put me up for the week or it would have been an expensive voluntary work experience.

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Shock in St Mary’s Undercroft’s Cupboard…

On day one, Stephen, Thomas’s research assistant greeted me and took me for coffee at Portcullis House.

This is the best place for politician watching, Nicholas Soames (Winston Churchill’s grandson) and Jo Johnson (Boris’s brother) sauntered by.

The morning was wrapped up with a tour of Westminster, I’ve never seen so much green (House of Commons) or red (House of Lords) leather in my life. Did you know that Michael Jackson asked to buy the gold features in the House of Lords (apparently)?

The highlight of the day was seeing the plaque which celebrates Emily Davison (suffragette and hero) which Labour MP Tony Benn illegally put up in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft’s broom cupboard!

That, and sitting in Angela Eagle’s (shadow) cabinet office with Thomas as they discussed strategy regarding the House of Lords reform as the TV displayed a Lord being interviewed by the BBC in the Parliament lobby below us. Surreal!

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Sitting With Giants

It was an exciting time to be in Parliament as The Commons’ timetable was saturated by The House of Lords reform debate. As Thomas’s guest I was granted permission to sit ‘in front of the glass’ in The Chamber, normal Joe Bloggs’ view the debate from behind.

During the debate, I heard Nick Clegg, (then) Deputy Prime Minister, speak on behalf of the Coalition Government and sat across from Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, another great in the fight for women in politics – the first (and only) female Speaker of the House!

Committees, Collaboration, & Constituents

Although it is what we see on the telly, Westminster is not solely about the debate.

Much of the work completed by MPs and Lords is in committees. At this time, Thomas was part of the Defence (Select) Committee and I observed the committee question the then Defence Cabinet Minister, Philip Hammond (soon to be Foreign Minister) about army equipment; the impact on dockyards post Scotland’s referendum on independence and finance.

I also watched Thomas in action during a Backbench Business Committee meeting where he requested floor time for a debate on the cost of supermarket milk which is having detrimental effects on the farming industry.

Although party politics plays a large part in what goes on at Westminster, I did see collaborative work through the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group.

The MPs discussed the short and long-term problems that families with children who have disabilities face, taking notes as these witnesses were given a voice.

It was tough to listen to but that’s what MPs are there to do – represent their constituents and I saw a wealth of evidence of this during my week work experience at Westminster.

How to Apply for Work Experience at Westminster

I had met with the school’s MP on a few occasions before I asked to spend time at his office in London but that should not stop you from applying for voluntary work, make that call! You can find out who your local MP is here.

Heading to The Big Smoke? Check out these free attractions in London, it’s an expensive city so every penny counts!

Have you travelled for work experience? Would you?

24 thoughts on “My Week Work Experience at Westminster

  1. Herumtreiberin says:

    It’s so cool that you had an opportunity to look into this! I guess not many people get to do what you were able to do. 🙂

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      It was actually relatively easy! I just contacted my MP’s office. You would need to have accommodation in London though which is expensive unless you know someone.

      • Sam says:

        Hiya. Can you tell me what you said to your MP’s office to get your experience? This was a really informative piece btw.

        • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

          Hi Sam, thanks for kind words. It was some experience! I had met my MP through school visits (I’m a Modern Studies teacher up here in Scotland) and asked if it was possible via email. I would assume a phonecall would suffice for further instruction?

  2. Carol Colborn says:

    Wow, that was such a neat experience. My daughter lives in London. I wonder if they would allow a foreigner to do this. If not, And she is in the computer industry. I guess we will not be able to experience what you did. Amazing! Thanks for sharing it.

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      I’m sure if she contacted a couple of MPs that could be a possibility. Hope you get to visit her in London!

  3. Wandering Carol says:

    What an incredible experience! I used to work at Westminster City Council as a clerk – it was an exciting job of photocopying and taking the mail around – but worth it just to get a glimpse of London behind the scenes.

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      You sell it so well! I used to work for Glasgow Housing Association so I can sympathise with you Carol.

  4. sophie says:

    Wow what an amazing experience. I did a tour around the houses of parliament when I was about 10 and I found it so exciting so I can’t imagine what it must have been like actually doing work experience there.

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      I did consider how cool it would be do a year volunteering there, if I was younger! I enjoyed being a commuter in London, such a fun city.

  5. Andrea says:

    This is perhaps the coolest volunteer gig ever! Fascinated by politics, I am jealous of the fact that you got to mingle with the “rich and powerful” 😉 I will have to go to the coffeehouse to try and spot some politicians the next time I’m in London!

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      Not going to lie Andrea, David Miliband looked pretty sexy leaning over the chair in The Chamber! He was too cool to sit naturally.

  6. Uncover Your Caribbean says:

    We’ve always been fascinated by Westminster and all the intricacies of Parliament. We haven’t done a tour but have passed by and taken the obligatory photo of Big Ben. Would love to do a more thorough visit though.

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      There are lots of secret areas which would be great to discover. Some of the traditions are strange. The Scottish Parliament is super modern in comparison.

  7. RaW | Ramble and Wander says:

    This is one heck of an experience! I used to live in London for a few years while I was still a student and would have loved this kind of opportunity then. Would have looked great in the resume 🙂 Too bad I was enjoying too much of London to care about any work experience like this, haha! 😉

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      I always wonder if not moving to London at some point will be one of my regrets! We are considering Brighton on our way back from the career break which isn’t far but a bit different.

  8. Leah says:

    What an awesome experience!! How many people can say they’ve had such an intimate look at Westminster…? So cool! Thanks for sharing.

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