Polly Bass graduated from LSE in 2017 with an MSc in Social Policy. During her masters she worked for David Lammy, MP for Tottenham. In this guest post she offers her reflections as she nears the end of a 10-month placement with Lord Best, an independent Crossbencher in the House of Lords.
An LSE Parliamentary Internship is a fantastic opportunity to get to grips with Westminster politics, and to learn how the policies and legislation that we study are formed, implemented, and how they impact people’s lives. But it is also a chance to develop your skills, gain experience, and help you to plan your future career.
Here are my suggestions for making the most of your Parliamentary Internship:
1) Show an interest – In anything and everything: keep your eyes and ears open and take in as much as you can.
Your time in Parliament will give you impressive access to topical, high-level events. If you have a Parliamentary pass then use it! Find All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) that are of interest, sign up to their mailing lists and go along to their meetings. Search out think-tank report launches and attend Select Committee sessions. Write briefings and ask questions: really make the most of the expertise around you – particularly if you’re working for a Peer, many of whom have been appointed for expertise in their field.
2) Get to grips with “politics” – who has influence, and how to influence.
Understanding the legislative and policy making process – and how to influence it – is a valuable skill.
Keep an eye on the day’s proceedings: see how questions can be used to hold ministers to account or to bring attention to a topic; how backbenchers can introduce Private Member’s Bills; and how debates can scrutinise and shed light on a sector, government’s performance, legislation, and topical events.
Some lobbying focuses on tabling amendments to bills as they pass through the House while other seeks to influence policy decisions. Familiarise yourself with green papers and white papers, consultations and the passage of legislation. And learn the relationships and roles played by members, ministers and civil servants.
3) Make connections – Understand how the political landscape fits together.
The political system can seem impenetrable from the outside: use your internship to piece it together.
If you’re working for an MP you may focus on constituency casework, diary management or writing briefings. As well as helping constituents, use it to gain perspective on the networks and organisations involved.
Think about who you interact with: central and local government departments, charities and campaigning groups. Take note of recurring topics in casework, parliamentary business, and events: identifying themes can help you to understand the challenges facing a sector, and who to approach if you are interested in working in it.
If you can, get involved with an APPG. It’s a great way to meet members from all parties and both Houses – as well as their staff – and many run inquiries which influence government policy.
4) Plan your future career – what would your role look like?
You may want to work in policy or research, preferably in an area relevant to your degree; but what does this job look like? Having an inside perspective will help to focus your career path and choose a role which plays to your strengths and interests.
Shadowing your MP or Peer in meetings with third-sector organisations and businesses will give you an insight into different types of roles. If communication and building relationships is one of your strengths then you might think about public affairs: helping to influence policy decisions through meeting with decision makers. Or, if you’re more confident on policy and research, then perhaps a policy adviser role: where you will analyse and devise the policy options that are brought to decision makers. Alternatively, you may find the civil service attractive: working on policy development and implementation, be it at central or local government level. Or, if the internship goes well, working directly for an MP in their constituency or Westminster office.
Whether or not you choose to stay in Westminster after you graduate, the experience you gain will be hugely valuable. It is not often you get a chance to work in such incredible surroundings in the heart of London, so more than anything, enjoy your time here!