Guess who we found lurking in the nether dungeons of the Palace of Westminster.
No not him. Try again.
Yes, our very own Dean Trench! After October’s happy return of your favourite W4MP alt.guider, we thought it was a one off. But no, he’s back with more timely advice for you.
Not that W4MP would possibly wish to comment on his latest ravings.
5 November 2013
HOW YOUR BOSS WILL CELEBRATE BONFIRE NIGHT
A guide for November
The author has long held that your average MP’s office works just as well – nay! better – when the Honourable Member isn’t actually there. You can get twice as much done in half the time – largely because you aren’t encumbered by a small child wailing plaintively that they are hungry, or need the toilet, or that they haven’t appeared in the papers since that time they tried to get in news by standing on College Green behind Nick Robinson dressed as a panda in order to highlight the plight of … because, well. Because of reasons.
Democracy’s great and all that but, frankly, things would work a lot better if MPs were replaced by holograms, controlled by their offices. As a Special Adviser once wailed to me, “You can provide them the briefing. You can give them the key lines. You can write the speech. The only thing you can’t do is stand up in the Chamber and deliver it for them, and they still bugger it up.”
Members of Parliament are sensitive souls, and they aren’t oblivious to the rumbles of resentment from their staffers, nor are they unwounded by arriving back in October after the recess to find their offices sparkling, the casework completed, and nobody on the phone to the Mail on Sunday attempting to explain away the boss’ latest zaniness.
Feeling superfluous to their own lives – and after the initial euphoria of returning to Parliament has abated – they all respond in the same way: by manufacturing a crisis in order to feel relevant again.
November is the month where MPs honour Guy Fawkes by attempting to emulate him.
1. Getting named by the Speaker
There was a tale doing the rounds some years ago that a certain staffer’s boss was planning to get “named” by the Speaker. Although this sounds like a jolly event involving two chaps shooting the breeze in the democratic cockpit of the nation, it’s actually the process via which the Speaker can ban the MP from the Chamber for crimes against protocol and good taste. The banishment can last anything from a couple of days to weeks, depending on the nature of the offence.
In this instance, the Member was planning to heckle the Speaker to draw attention to some perceived injustice – in all honesty, the true motivation for this sort of behaviour is to draw attention to themselves – and hopefully get an opportunity to look noble on the telly. Thankfully, the MP chickened out at the last minute. The bag-carrier was relieved not just because it was a scheme that had “brilliant idea” written all over it and would have naturally ended up with their employer looking like a right wally, but also because without the Chamber to distract him, he’d spend all of his time getting in his staff’s way.
This sort of wackiness should be subtly discouraged during the month of November, when it is most likely to manifest itself. The best way is to point out that “named” MPs don’t get paid for the period of their expulsion which is measured in sitting days. An appeal to self-interest always works well in the political sphere.
2. Employing a “special advisor”
Ah, the autumn reshuffle. Bringer of joy to some, disappointment to many, and raging jealousy to most. Once again – in the greatest injustice since Bobby Sands – the boss has been overlooked.
It’s quite clear that you, the MP’s loyal staffer, are partly (read as: mostly) to blame for this. If you had spent more time keeping him up to speed on the latest policy developments, then they would have the basis for some truly stunning interventions in the Chamber and wowing the leader’s office with both their grasp of the details and their brilliant demagoguery.
Pleas that you were doing your best to help out in this regard but were busy with the casework, policy letters, weekend diary, fixing their flat tyre, buying a birthday present for their other half, making sure that they were provided with bacon butties at all times and organising their surgery whilst they chatted to their mates in the Tea Room will fall on deaf ears. Obviously.
And, anyway, why shouldn’t they have a special advisor? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has one, doesn’t he?
So one dark, November morning, you will walk into your office to be confronted by a besuited teenager, sitting in your chair and talking loudly into a mobile phone. Fresh from an internship (he made the tea) at a think-tank, he will be wowing your boss with buzzwords and his go-getter attitude
The fact that he knows precisely as much about an MP’s office as the Morrissey does about grace and humility will, naturally, cause problems. Before you know it your Member will be sailing down the wrong division lobby, accidentally endorsing an opposition motion in the Chamber, and bowling off to a live interview reassured that any slanderous musings he might feel the need to impart to Nick Robinson are covered by Parliamentary privilege (many bag-carriers know, via bitter experience, this not to be true).
None of which will particularly endear your boss to either your whips’ office or the leadership come reshuffle time.
3. Staging a coup d’état
This tends to be the preserve of the bored Opposition backbencher, but it can afflict any Member with time on his or her hands. Perhaps they feel that their beloved leader is dragging them down in the polls, doesn’t have the moral courage to lead their party into the sunlit uplands of electoral success, or are simply bitter that the MP they share an office with got that coveted position as the PPS to the Minister for The Vending Machine in the Home Office (see above). Either way, action must be taken.
MPs love a good old conspire, and an opportunity to do so whilst causing wanton destruction will appeal to the baser instincts in a politician.
There’s one problem with their attempts to emulate poundshop Machiavellis, however: they’re crap at it.
Although they’ll enjoy the meetings in darkened rooms and the late night phone calls will make them feel powerful and relevant, it’s only a matter of time before one of them boasts about their Top Secret Planning within the earshot of a journalist.
Thus, once the headlines have died down, your MP will find them self on every single boring Statutory Instrument Committee for the rest of what can now loosely be described as their “career”.