Monday, 17 December 2007

Just another quick post from me - now in our final week, us interns are finding the pace slowing down a bit... with the exception of poor old Clare, who went into hospital today for an operation on her hand - hopefully by the time this post is published she will be well on the way to recovery!! (Just dont ask her how it happened...)

I had my team Christmas lunch today with colleagues, in the swanky "Adjournment" restaurant, and Damian spoilt us with a bottle of champagne! Christmas cards exchanged, we all feel very festive!! The work however, continues apace - lots of letters still to deal with, seemingly as the government lurches from one crisis to another!

All the interns are hoping to get together for a dinner sometime this week to have a good opportunity to come together and review the term, hopefully Clare will be back on her feet by then!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Christmas approaches

Now we're into Advent the end of a very long term is in sight for the Parliamentary Interns - im having difficulty getting used to not having 8 week terms as at Oxford - all my friends still back there finished a week ago, and we've all still got 2 weeks to go...!

The pace in parliament hasnt slowed at all - all of us have been kept very busy with various duties - im working hard on a project on the NHS "Spine" for Damian - a database that holds all NHS patient's medical records in England. This project, which is in the process of being implemented, has understandably raised quite a few concerns amongst many people in the light of the HMRC "Datagate" scandal of a few weeks ago. Many are concerned that no matter how strict the security of such IT systems, the risk to people's personal data whilst stored on a national database will never be completely diminished - all it could take is a simple human error and your entire medical history could be exposed to hackers. Or, as in the case of one campaigner, such an error could actually incorrectly label you as having a medical problem you have never suffered from - eg schizophrenia or alcoholism. I often find with these research projects Im undertaking that, the more i read, the more I realise quite how in the dark the population really is about what the state is doing - potentially very concerning!

All the interns and a contingent from Newman House attended the funeral of Tim Berner, Dom's dad, on Thursday down in Wimbledon. It was amazing to see a church so full of people from so many different aspects of Tim and his family's life. We were all glad to be there to support Dom, and despite the great sadness everyone felt for the family's loss, I felt an immense power from the service and the community that was gathered there, despite the torrential rain outside. It's times like these that the support of friends and family really are seen to be an amazing and divine gift.

The Newman House Christmas party was very well attended last Friday evening. Sadly I was not able to make it, as I was at a ball in Bayswater, but from what I heard it was a spectacular event, all the more important given that many house residents will soon be heading off for the Christmas vacation.

I know for a fact that us interns are eagerly awaiting the end of our term - an amazing term in so many ways - but very challenging in other respects. Here's to the last few weeks- will post another update before too long!


Sunday, 25 November 2007

Conferences and sheep

This week has seen the parliamentary interns very busy indeed - with lots of events, courses, conferences, and I went on a constituency visit to Ashford in Kent!

Life in Damian's office continues apace - my colleague was away for much of this week so i was required to step up to the challenges of taking on some extra work, keeping me busier than usual. I attended a Library presentation on UK population and migration statistics, which was very helpful for Damian's immigration work, and I attempted to summarize the details in a short briefing note for him.

On Wednesday I managed to obtain a ticket to watch Prime Minister's Questions from the public gallery which was great fun - a real experience. We were all sat behind a giant security screen so that did take away some of the atmosphere, and my eyesight not being great it wasnt as clear as watching it on TV - but great to have a view of the whole chamber and hear the roar of the debate. Also very interesting watching the key players assemble in their places just before the session started.

Friday involved a 6:30am start to catch a train from Charing Cross down to Ashford to accompany Damian on some constituency duties - involving visiting a charity organisation, a local business (making unmanned drone aircraft) and a skipping event at a local primary school - I managed to escape having to skip, but Damian wasnt so lucky! He also drove me around the constituency, which outside Ashford town itself, is very rural - it was a lovely sunny day and we saw the countryside at its best, complete with many flocks of sheep! Great to get out of London for a bit, and get a better sense of the area and the people we are working for up in parliament.

Yesterday we had a very interesting conference at Notre Dame University on "Faith in Your Future" featuring many impressive speakers from a variety of backgrounds, including the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, and the editor of the Tablet. It was very refreshing to see such prominent public figures willingly discuss their faith, what it meant to them, and how it influenced their careers.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Winter sets in...

The unusually warm and pleasant winter we've all been experiencing over the last few months unfortunately appears to be at an end - I was forced to put my umbrella to good use on my walk to work this morning, a particularly dark and damp November day - and my shoes got wet!

At least the world of politics isnt anywhere near as depressing as the weather - had an absolutely manic fw days last week, with lots more immigration stories to deal with here in the Green office - such as the Home Secretary's announcement on the illegal security workers, which caused quite a stir! One of the team is away at the moment, so I have taken on a lot more responsibility than I've been accustomed to so far, but which is keeping me busy and it's very stimulating work. However, spending 3 hours making very slow progress with telephone calls to the Child Suport Agency chasing up constituent's cases is a bit waring...!

This weekend, John and I were joined by the Brussels interns Adrian and Rhiannon, at a conference at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, entitled "The Ethics of Climate Change". It promised to be a very valuable event, especially given the prominence of climate change in current and political affairs. The conference was well attended and featured many distinguished academics, politicians, and clergy, and was an effective general summary of the current climate situation, and suggestions for how to deal with the problem, and some speakers argued the case for Christian Ethics underpinning our responsibility and response to the issue of climate change. It was lovely to get away from London for a bit as well!

Lots on this week - I have a lecture to attend on UK population and migration, and am hopefully going to be visiting Ashford in Kent (Damian's constituency) on Friday - involving a "skip to keep fit" event at a school which I have apparently been drafted in to do on Damian's behalf. Oh dear...


Saturday, 3 November 2007

1st month completed...

Well, after 4 weeks in parliament, we're all starting to settle into the new roles. All three of us have been kept busy with various different jobs and responsibilities by our respective MPs.

This week was particularly exciting for me as I accompanied Damian on a "media round" over the road at Millbank, where all the main news agencies (ITN, Sky, BBC etc) all have mini studious so as to conveniently interview westminster figures. Then later that day I helped him prepare for an appearance on Question Time, held in Swansea, and spent the evening watching it on TV and cheering him on!

Weekend now, so a good opportunity to catch up on sleep, work, laundry, and Im starting to update my CV with a view to putting in applications for various graduate recruiters in London - seems a bit premature perhaps, but the last month has gone by so quickly I know that the year will be concluded all too soon...!

Monday, 29 October 2007

A belated blog...

Good Lord, it has been a long time since I've posted on here - well overdue for an update into the crazy world of the Catholic Parliamentary Interns!

All four of us have had a very busy few weeks, and now we're almost in November and approaching the completion of our first full month in Westminster - it's absolutely flown by! For me, working in Damian's office has been very varied and hugely rewarding. As Shadow Immigration Minister he has a lot of work to deal with, especially given the recent focus on asylum and immigration issues, on top of his constituency work from Ashford.

I have been focusing on a research project on Identity Cards, Biometrics and Information databases held by the state - the Government's ID Cards Act of last year is in the process of being implemented, and I've been gathering as much information as possible on all the issues and debates on the subject, to inform Damian, and assist the Conservative Party's ongoing campaign to oppose the introduction of this absolutely awful idea! Still... I ought to try and keep political points to a minimum on this page!

In addition to that I have been doing a fair bit of first response to constituent's problems and questions, which involves getting details of their issue so that Damian can better respond to it, as well as more detailed constituency casework. I really enjoy this aspect of the job - talking with members of the public about such a massive range of issues, and attempting to resolve their problems - hugely rewarding.

I will post back with another blog on Friday - to make up for the lack of posts recently (!) - after I get back from a constituency visit to Ashford, in Kent, where I'll be accompanying Damian on visits around the constituency as well as assisting him in his regular surgery at the constituency office. Really looking forward to the visit - i've only ever seen Ashford from the window of the Eurostar - although the 7am train from Charing Cross is going to be a challenging start to the day!


Friday, 5 October 2007

Manic Beginnings!

Hi - this appears to be the first blog post from the Catholic Parliamentary Internship Scheme 2007-08, so, bearing in mind I am an absolute blogging novice, here goes...!

All 4 interns working in parliament have now settled into Newman House, although Clare has been here a little while longer than Dom, John and myself (who are going to be working for MPs), labouring away in the office of Lord Dan Brennan QC - so im sure she'll have much to say on that front in due course! It's certainly been a very hectic couple of weeks for us all, and the MP interns havent even started yet - we kick off on Monday 8th October.

The first weekend, joined by Adrian and Rhiannon (our Brussels interns) and Fiona (our Archbishop's House intern) we jetted off to north Wales to a beautiful Ignatian Retreat Centre just outside Rhyl, to begin the scheme with some very welcome prayer, reflection, and a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle bustle of central London life! Then we were back for a few days of conferences and meetings at the Bishops Conference and CAFOD, learning about the operations of the various Catholic agencies across England, Wales and the wider world. Following this, I set off to Blackpool to participate in the Conservative Party Conference, and soak up the northern seaside and atmosphere, and not a little alcohol along the way...!

Now the four of us are all back full time in Newman House and about to embark on the next stage of the scheme, we're very much looking forward to getting more involved in the life and community of the house, which on behalf of all of us, I would like to say has been fantastically welcoming and so much fun. I personally am looking forward to the opening of the bar shortly! We hope to play an active role in the house over the course of this year, all assuming an election isnt called and we are summoned away to our MP's constituencies to help fight their campaigns...!

Will Blair