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Insight into Politics - my work experience with Meg

Friday, July 29, 2005

Alice Lacey, a pupil at Sheffield High School, recently undertook a two week work experience with Meg at her offices in Sheffield and London. The following is her account of getting an 'insight into the world of politics'.



On the 27th of June 2005 I began my two weeks work experience with Meg Munn MP, the popular and well respected MP for Sheffield Heeley and newly appointed Deputy Minister for Women and Equality.


My first week started with a tour of Parliament. It was really strange to go in the rooms I've seen on television and it was even more impressive in real life. On the tour I learnt a lot about the history of Parliament. What struck me most about this historic building is the way in which it is so important yet so accessible, just about anyone can go in an watch a debate or even ask to see your MP.


Day two began at 10.00 at the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), an impressive modern building close to the heart of Westminster, where Meg has her Ministerial office. Helen Dwyer, Meg's busy assistant came down to meet me in the big glass reception area and took me up to Meg’s office in the rather futuristic looking lifts. I then read about what the DTI is and what it does. I have to admit that before this I knew next to nothing about the work of the DTI despite it being hugely important to economic growth in the UK. But I now know that the DTI is a very important government organization that encourages economic growth and enterprise by providing invaluable support to UK business, science and innovation to be successful not only in the UK but around the world.


Later that morning Meg arrived back from a Ministerial meeting. We walked over to a Westminster Hall debate on 'employment agencies and the recruitment of overseas workers'. I enjoyed watching this as it was interesting to hear from MP's their concerns as well as hearing about what the government is doing.  Despite only being given a short time Meg gave a clear and informative speech that clearly conveyed the governments view and what it is doing to address the problem of exploitation.


Then I sat in on a pre-briefing for a Trades Union Congress (TUC) event that Meg was scheduled to speak at. It gave me an insight into how Meg’s speeches are put together and a glimpse into the busy schedule of a Minister. I also got the chance to read other speeches Meg had made as well as future speeches including one for an event to promote women in enterprise, something that Meg as Minister for Women is very involved in.


I also attended an event held by Yorkshire Forward, an organisation which aims to boost economic development in the region. The event, about encouraging tourism and funding in Yorkshire, was held in a marquee on the terrace overlooking the Thames. Events like this give the opportunity for MPs to make connections with those involved, and for Yorkshire Forward representatives to put across their ideas to them. We listened to an informative and persuasive speech on tourism in Yorkshire, which was followed by the showing of their new advertisement.  I learnt a lot from this not only about Yorkshire tourism but I was given some useful interview tips from a Yorkshire Forward representative, not to mention the gift bags on the way out! The day ended with Meg taking me up onto the roof, overlooking the Thames. The view was amazing and it was a great way to end the day.


The rest of my two weeks was spent in the constituency office in Sheffield, and it was by no means less interesting. I met Deborah Stenton and Mike Harrison, Meg's extremely busy and hardworking constituency assistants. During this part of my work experience I learnt what a huge amount of work they both do. My first day was spent sticking in the pile of press cuttings into a ring binder, like a scrapbook documenting Meg’s career as an MP. I also checked addresses of constituents who had written to or phoned Meg, stuffed letters and printed out letters to all the soon to be eighteen year olds in Meg's constituency. A more interesting task was searching for information to answer a constituent’s query. Both Deborah and Mike receive lots of problems or questions from constituent’s everyday and I was inspired by their perseverance to answer and solve everything.


On the Monday of my second week of work experience I met John Robson, Councillor for Arbourthorne. In the afternoon I was given the chance to attend a Scrutiny Board meeting that he was part of, this was a great insight into how Sheffield City Council works. The item being scrutinised was the Council’s plans for the development and regeneration on the Burngreave and Fir Vale area of Sheffield. I learnt a lot especially as Councillor Robson kept leaving the main table to point people out and to make sure I knew what was going on. Although classed as non-political the scrutiny board meeting turned out to be a heated debate with some very strong opinions on such an important matter. The meeting lasted for something like two and a half hours due to one Councillor taking an hour putting across why he had called it to be scrutinised. Nevertheless it was great to watch and I learnt a lot.


On the last day of my work experience I got to accompany Meg on a Ministerial visit to the opening of a refurbished breast cancer screening unit, followed with a tour around the Royal Hallamshire hospital. When we got back to the office I got the chance to sit in on Meg’s meetings. One was about the case for women in enterprise and the other was with two representatives from the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber.


My two weeks work experience has given me an insight into the world of politics at both a local and national level. I've come away from it all knowing a lot more than I did before about government and politics and it's become even more fascinating, I can’t wait to learn more. I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who I met during work experience especially Meg, Deborah and Mike, who have all taught me a lot and for letting me have this opportunity, since I know they are all extremely busy people! This work experience placement has really inspired me to get involved locally and I'd definitely consider a job in politics one day.


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