You know the drill by now: there are some phrases such as “bonus season” and “you might as well take the next week off as it’s recess” that are music to the ears of the bag-carrying fraternity. There are some that are, shall we say, less welcome. A selection of these are detailed below.
1. “Your boss has come top of the Private Members’ Ballot”
Congratulations! This means that for the next couple of weeks you will be lobbied by every PR firm and pressure group in the Westminster area who are all desperate for your boss to table their Bill. Expect to spend hours on the phone to the Bring Back Birching Campaign Group who are outraged that the boss is less than keen on tabling the Hoodies Loitering Suspiciously (Summary Execution By Householders) Bill. Meanwhile, your employer will gain roughly three stone in as many weeks and spend the afternoons in a champagne induced haze as he or she is wined and dined by overly keen lobbyists desperate to peddle their legislative musings. The worst part of this news is, of course, that you can expect your Member of Parliament to spend a good number of Fridays in the Parliament office (see below).
2. “Constituency report”
Some MPs prefer to produce a single glossy leaflet on a yearly basis, usually crammed with pictures of them Listening To The People and kissing patently unenthusiastic babies. If funded out of the Communications Allowance, these missives have to be strictly non-partisan, so expect weeks of wranglings with the Fees Office and long sulks from the boss as he or she attempts to argue that the headline “Opposition candidate smells of poo and interferes with puppies” is perfectly within the guidelines. If you’re really unlucky your MP will want to do monthly or even weekly updates for inclusion on the website. In these circumstances you will be required to come up with punchy new headlines detailing the superb work that your boss is up to and will soon be reduced to such headlines as “Local MP manages to tie shoelaces correctly most days!”
3. “I’ve had a BRILLIANT idea!”
This one has been mentioned on a number of occasions before at the alt.guides, but this is a phrase that can induce the shakes in the most hardy of bag-carriers as it usually means “I’ve had a mad and entirely inappropriate plan that will inevitably end in a bollocking from the whips and pointing and laughing from everybody else on the Estate.” If your boss has the time to have “brilliant ideas,” you are obviously not filling his or her diary with enough stuff to keep them busy. Did you see that three week long seminar organised by the National Neuter Organisation? Time to get them signed up – you owe it to your blood pressure.
4. “Office reorganisation”
Roughly translated, this statement goes something like this: “I took home the correspondence relating to Mrs Bloggs’ case with the best intentions. However, I sort of forgot about it and it lurked at the bottom of my briefcase for three months until I pulled it out looking for something else a few weeks ago. Thereafter it lodged itself under the sofa and only re-emerged yesterday when I was hunting around for the remote so I could tune into the season finale of that show with Jennifer Love Hewitt in it. I now have to find a feasible reason why this is not my fault, especially as Mrs Bloggs is calling hourly demanding a progress update.”
Naturally Members of Parliament being the beasts they are constitutionally unable to do a mea culpa when they’ve buggered something up, and so there must be found a reason why it is somebody else’s fault. Namely yours.
The MP will call everyone in for a staff meeting and chunter long and loud about how certain tasks are falling by the wayside and what is needed is a wholesale overhaul of the office in order to ensure that this never happens again. Cue several weeks of backbreaking labour as you reform and re-index your filing system, and mind-numbing dullness as you work your way through all your databases making the changes your boss requires.
All will be well for a week or two until they spot an interesting piece of correspondence in the post and think, “hmmm. I think I’ll pop that in the briefcase and read it at home…”
And thus, what Nietzsche once referred to as “eternal recurrence” continues its endless cycle.
5. “I’ll be in on Friday”
Any Westminster based bag-carrier will tell you without a moment’s hesitation that Friday is not a day when Members of Parliament should be loitering around the Commons office. Friday is a day for actually working your contracted hours for once, a long lunch, and punching out at 5pm for a swift several in the Sports and Social. Apart from everything else, Friday is the one day of the week when staffers in Parliament can actually get some serious work done, unmolested by demands for coffee, plaintive complaints that the pager’s broken again (they’ve not turned it on), bright ideas, or any of the usual carnage that MPs are liable to perpetrate Monday to Thursday.
6. “Local elections”
An almost annual trauma, this will involve your boss “volunteering” you to help out. Obviously as Parliamentary Rules do not allow campaigning in office time, you will similarly “volunteer” to give up a significant portion of your holiday entitlement in order that you can spend time not in the Algarve but in Backbenchshire constituency being chased by large dogs and abused by members of the public.
7. “Tour group”
Tours of Parliament are wonderful, illuminating, and educational. Unless you’re put in charge of organising them, that is, and then they are hellish, headache-inducing, and generally grim. The nightmare usually begins with the MP promising that he or she can book a group of three hundred under-fives from the local infant school on a tour on a particular day without checking first with the Parliamentary Tours Office. In some mysterious way, this will become “all your fault” as you’ve “dropped the ball” on this one. With the air of one of middle-ranking martyrs, your boss will walk the group around the Commons himself attracting the ire of the Serjeant at Arms department and scattering schoolchildren like confetti as they peel off and get lost en route. Expect a stiff letter from the SAA and various unpleasant comments in the local press the following week.
8. “Clear my diary, I’m going to spend the afternoon working”
“Clear my diary, I want to spend the afternoon bugging you, fiddling around with your filing piles, and wandering off with important pieces of correspondence that will never be seen again.”
9. “Office Christmas party”
Often dire affairs held in the constituency, these nonetheless often come with a three line whip issued as to staff attendance. Somebody will have mended the broken light in the constituency office by inserting a 300W light bulb which adds the air of the interrogation room to proceedings. Limp paper chains adorn the walls which shelter an unprepossessing looking trestle table upon which is laid a banquet of Tesco Value sausage rolls, peanuts, and sherry of such strength that a single whiff would blow your head off.
After a few drinks everybody will have settled down a bit, although the line between “Christmas cheer” and “utterly arseholed” is a fine one. The party is liable to come to an abrupt end as soon as Shouty Nigel, the constituency party secretary, drinks one Tenant’s Super too many and vomits all over the Christmas tree.
10. “You’re not busy, are you?”
A query usually made at around 8pm at night when you’re still at your desk, and seconds before the MP dumps an enormous pile of horrifically old correspondence into your inbox before sauntering off to the Strangers’ Bar studiously oblivious to your plaintive cries for amnesty.
Added by Dean Trench on 29th April 2008