Thursday, 9 October 2008


Hello and welcome to this year’s Catholic Parliamentary Interns’ Blog!

First of all, some introductions. There are seven interns this year. Olivia and Oliver are working with MEPs in Brussels, whilst Alison, Laura and Luke are with MPs in the House of Commons in London. Amanda is working at the Catholic Education Service and I (Maeve) am in the Cardinal’s Public Affairs Office.

We’ve just spent the last two weeks being inducted into the scheme. This began with a four-day retreat at St Beuno’s in Wales, which was a great opportunity to pray, unwind and get to know each other. Upon our return, we spent a week visiting various different departments in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as well as spending a day at CAFOD. Having been thoroughly inducted, we are now settling into our day-to-day roles. You’ll be hearing from the others over the next few weeks, so for now I’ll just update you on what I’ve been up to since I started work.

As the Public Affairs Intern, I work in Archbishop’s House. I’m involved in lots of Diocesan-based communications and so I attend many of the events that occur within Westminster Diocese. Recently these have included the Red Mass (the annual Mass for Catholic lawyers) and a Mass to mark the 80th anniversary of Opus Dei. I write press releases, update the Diocesan website ( – put it in your favourites now!) and partake in various meetings in connection with the Cardinal and the Diocese.

I think I speak on behalf of all us when I say that we’re really looking forward to everything this year has to offer, and for those of us in London, this includes immersing ourselves in Newman House life and studying Christian Ethics at Heythrop College. All in all it’s going to be a busy year, but one that is already shaping up very well indeed!


Sunday, 3 August 2008

Catholic Parliamentary Interns 2008-9

The Internship Programme has expanded to include another intern who will be working with the Catholic Education Service, and another, in the Public Affairs Office at Archbishop's House, Westminster.

Amanda Brennan

I was immediately drawn to the Catholic Parliamentary Internship scheme with its unique combination of work, study and community life. I’m anticipating all sorts of new challenges and opportunities, and the distinctively spiritual context of the scheme makes it particularly appealing. Rather than a parliamentary placement, I’ll be spending ten months with the Catholic Education Service, an exciting prospect given the highly topical nature of their work and my own longstanding interest in education. I’m also looking forward to studying Christian Ethics at Heythrop College and living at Newman House which, from what I’ve seen, seems a vibrant, friendly place. Altogether it’s a wonderful program and I’m really looking forward to getting started.

Alison Potter
I am really looking forward to starting the Catholic Parliamentary Internship in September. I am really excited at the prospect of working with an MP and also the chance to study at Heythrop College. It will be wonderful to live with the other interns in such a vibrant Catholic Community as Newman House. I shall be interning with the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East, Sarah Teather; and I am sure I shall learn a great deal working in her constituency office as well as in Parliament. I am very grateful to be given this opportunity and can’t wait to begin!

Maeve McCormack
I’m going to be working in the Archbishop’s Public Affairs Office in Archbishop’s House. I’m really looking forward to getting out and about and seeing what’s happening in Westminster Diocese as well as helping to publicise everything that’s going on. It’s great to be a part of this scheme and to get the opportunity to see how this vibrant and important department operates. Living in Newman House is a very exciting prospect – I’ve been living in Nottingham University’s Newman House for the last year so I’m keen to get stuck into chaplaincy life and all that it involves. It should be a year full of interesting challenges and new experiences and I can’t wait to get started!

Luke de Pulford
I had been researching various internships when I heard about the CPI scheme and could hardly believe it – the opportunity to combine political work with spiritual development in such a stimulating programme is a rare one – I jumped at the chance. From late September, I will be shadowing Nigel Waterson, Conservative MP for Eastbourne, under whom I stand to learn a lot about the ins and outs of Westminster. I can't wait to get my teeth in to the challenge of juggling a hectic job, evening study at Heythrop, and an active social and spiritual life at Newman House. I feel truly privileged to be an 2008-09 intern – roll on September!

Laura O’Hagan
My name is Laura O’Hagan and I’m really looking forward to working with John McFall MP (Lab) when I start on the parliamentary internship programme in September. John McFall is often a spokesperson for financial issues and I haven’t done a lot of economics before so it will be good to get my teeth in to something new especially as the economy is such a relevant political issue just now. It will be great to work in Westminster and be at the centre of everything. I’m looking forward to the study side too. I’ve been working for the last year, but I’m a bit of a book worm at heart so it will be nice to be a student again

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Visit to Goldman Sachs

Well, apologies that it has been such an age since I last posted - the three interns have had a couple of weeks break over the Parliamentary Easter recess which was very welcome I must say. A good opportunity for some R&R and to squeeze in a couple of job interviews I found!

Today, all of us, including the Brussels interns, were invited to the London office of Goldman Sachs by Lord Brian Griffiths to attend a forum with himself, Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool, and Peter Sutherland, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs international. We had a very productive morning which featured a series of presentations - the first being an overview of the global economy and its trends and developments over the past few years, which was delivered by one o the many talented GS staff. Then we heard another presentation from a member of the Government Affairs team, about the influences and interactions of the Westminster Village and the Square Mile of the City of London. And finally, it wrapped up with a thoughtful discussion by Lord Griffiths on the place of faith and spirituality in the City, and the challenges that this can present.

We all agreed how valuable and informative this session was - I found it particularly impressive to be in the heart of the GS operation and with such senior figures from the financial world. It was also somewhat of a crash-course in financial affairs and basic economics - I personally find the business section of newspapers very challenging in getting my head around, and although we throw about phrases like "credit crunch" and "global recession" all the time here in politics, sometimes I'd be under a bit of pressure to define exactly what they mean!

Next week we're off to Brussels with Charles for a couple of days, which will include visits around the European Parliament and its associated departments. I personally am very much looking forward to making my maiden voyage out from the newly-restored Victorian masterpiece that is St Pancras International!


Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Post-Easter Greetings

Well, it's been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted, so another update from the Catholic Parliamentary world well overdue...

We've all returned to work after a very pleasant Easter break, and all the interns have been up to various bits a pieces in the last few weeks.

Dom had a cracking time in the European Capital of Culture that is Liverpool for the Lib Dem Spring Conference, staying with the Pughs - apparently there was a great party atmosphere and he even came back with somewhat of a scouse accent!

My Spring Forum travails took me to Glorious Newcastle-Gateshead in the luxurious surroundings of the Sage Conference Centre, which boasts fabulous views along the redeveloped quayside. Having visited the area a while ago it was great to be back, and I have to say the area was looking great, with all the redevelopment agencies and money really having paid off - many new businesses and redesigns of the area have made Newcastle a clearly dynamic and vibrant city, and one certainly able to cope with conferences and events much larger than the Spring forum! I even met a local celeb at one of the receptions - one sir John Hall, former owner of Newcastle FC - who was very pleased to see a mainstream political party engaging with an area which has for too long been forgotten by Governments of all varieties in the past; let's hope the latest regeneration is a sign of things to come for the city and the wider area.

Ms Groom has just returned from her band's 2008 St Patrick's Day tour of New York, which apparently went down a storm - I do hope her hand held out for it though!

All in all, we've been getting around! Next big, or rather, grim, event is my birthday on Thursday - the interns, colleagues, friends and myself will be having a few in the appropriately named "Cardinal" pub behind Westminster Cathedral on Thursday - do pop in if you're around!


Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Marching on to Easter

Been a couple of weeks since my last blog, and a fair bit has been going on here in Westminster.

I've been motoring through the casework (I wish!), although the pile is regularly topped up with the latest constituency issue - all very good experience though and interesting to discover more and more about aspects of everyday life that I have so far not encountered - such as the intricacies of local policing and anti-social behaviour initiatives relative successes or failures.

The ID cards research continues and it's all very interesting watching the roll out of this new initiative and monitoring the response from the media and public opinion. I've also just begun a new project monitoring the progress of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which has raised a lot of concerns both amongst the Church and many parliamentarians, of whom Im glad to count our Catholic Intern MPs for this year!

This week we welcome Adrian and Rhiannon from Brussels, and meetings have been arranged for us with Ruth Kelly, the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Secretary, which should be very interesting and a welcome enrichment to our internship experiences. Then Dom is jetting off to stay with his MP and his wife in Southport, before heading on to the Lib Dem Spring Conference in Liverpool - his first trip to that part of the country. If it's anything like my experience in Blackpool, he'll have a great time!

Finally, I had a brilliant evening with Father Peter, Chris and others a week ago yesterday at the Desert Island Disks dinner - a really enjoyable evening with some very interesting choices of tracks. I found it most difficult deciding on one which said something about me, but I opted for the uplifting and inclusive "One Vision" by the legends that are Queen.


Monday, 18 February 2008

Constituency week over, roll on Spring...

Well, the three of us having greatly enjoyed a pleasant, if rather random bit of time off with "Constituency Week" last week, it's back to the coalface today! Last week basically involved the house rising for a week so MPs can (in theory) spend a bit more than the customary long weekend in their constituency and the many issues it involves. Damian returned to Ashford a week ago last Thursday and I headed home for a few days for a bit of R&R.

Dom and I particularly enjoyed our jaunt over to Berlin - definitely the home of the best kebabs in the world - so much so that I even spotted a few sober people eating them! I explored a fair bit of the city's communist past, with many an example of soviet-era high rise housing and office blocks, complemented by some particularly chilly communist weather. In fact, great though the city was next time I book a holiday I think I'm going to try and head somewhere just a touch warmer! But particularly nice to be in a city that is very clean, doesnt seem too busy or congested, and where a 45 min train journey from the airport costs 2 euros (compared to £25 for in the UK on the Stansted Express)!

Coming up in this stretch of half term we have a visit of the two Brussels interns, Adrian and Rhiannon, to the UK, where we shall be hosting them in Westminster, and the trip will involve visits to the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office - coming up in early March. And hot on the heels of these events are the Lib Dem and Tory Spring Conferences - which both Dom and I shall be attending. Both have a northern theme, perhaps in solidarity with the poor plight of Northern Rock (nationalised today by the Chancellor) - the Lib Dems will be partying in Liverpool, and the Tories hit Newcastle-Gateshead, the latter an interesting choice given the scarecity of Tories in that area. We hope all this will change soon though...


Tuesday, 5 February 2008

February at last

It is certainly with a great deal of joy that I now walk to work in noticeably more clement weather, and a fair bit of sunshine as well. Indeed, it does appear that after the bleak January, Spring is truly bouncing onto the scene this month!

The business of parliament is slowing a little at the moment, as MPs prepare for "constituency week" which begins when the house rises on Thursday. For Dom, John and myself, this means a very welcome breather! Im heading home for a few days, which will be great to chill out, catch up with some old friends, and see my dogs again. Plenty of walks out in the fresh air of rural Dorset required methinks - im afraid I dont believe the London version of "fresh air" is up to much!

Dom and I are then heading off to Berlin for a few days, and John is jetsetting through the brand new St Pancras Eurostar terminal for a break in the city of lurve, gay Paree.

I am very keen to see the new terminal actually, and must confess that its relaunch has forced a bit of the closet anorak out in me - Damian went to the grand opening a few months ago, and i am very keen to check out the building restored to its Victorian splendour. Apparently, the inspiration for the shopping concourse is inspired by features of New York's Grand Central Terminal, which i have visited, and is staggering in its scale and grandeur - like Grand Central, St Pancras will soon be boasting a Farmer's Market!

Before I sign off for my half term break, I feel that the Newman House 1st XI Footie Squad deserve a mention on their glorious first victory on Sunday afternoon, featuring the CPI's very own Clare Mary Groom and Dom Berner, who acquitted themselves very well Im told! I shall leave the post-match analysis for another day... im certainly no Alan Hansen.


Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Casework madness

As we near the end of a rather challenging January, us interns are starting to look forward to the sunnier, more cheerful climes of springtime. The half term parliamentary recess is just over a week away now, so we're certainly looking forward to a bit of a break from the challenges of the internship - I am particularly chuffed at the moment on a couple of counts. One is my ability to get a bit of a bargain train ticket home to Weymouth for the end of next week - making me a saving of over £11 - which will certainly come in handy for the months ahead!

The second is an email I received from a constituent yesterday thanking me personally for all the help I had given her in resolving a very longstanding dispute with the Tax Credit Office. I shalnt bore you all with the details of the casework, but suffice it to say that MPs are often approached by people who have run into severe difficulties and delays with various government agencies, whose vastly complicated and enlarged bureaucratic systems mean that many cases - eg chasing up maintenance payments through the CSA or obtaining benefits from HMRC - are simply shunted from one office to another without resolution, or are simply lost somewhere in the system. Needless to say these delays are usually very frustrating for those affected, and can lead in many cases to acute distress, especially for those living on or close to the poverty line - £40 or so a week really can be the difference between affording school uniform, decent food, and furnishings for one's home.

This "casework" MPs or their staff undertake can also be very frustrating as it usually takes a while to get the case prioritised - it requires a lot of patience, attention to detail, and a determination to keep the pressure on to see the case resolved. But eventually, after many phonecalls, emails and plenty of delays, these cases can be cracked, and receiving the thanks from those you have helped really does give an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement.

Team Intern is off to Brixton Prison on Friday, the oldest gaol in the country, and currently serving as a remand prison for the area. Let's hope none of us are detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure... more details to follow.


Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Return of the bar

Another mid-week post from me - live inside the corridors of power (well, at the time of writing anyway!) A fair bit of news from the interns coming up...

I appear to be on the road to recovery, after a protracted length of abstinence from alcohol, which shows that the powers of detox are obviously something to be reccommended. Although not for too long.

Dom has some very exciting news - he played in his debut match this morning for the Parliamentary 1st 11 football team, joining IDS and the lads in a 5-1 thrashing of the opposition! Sounds very much like a session at PMQ's these days. His boss, John Pugh, was so impressed with his intern's achievement, that he offered to videotape the match - so watch this space for CPI Match of the Day!

A few of us are hoping to visit John's home in the rural bliss of Buckinghamshire this weekend, which will be a welcome break from the city. I am also very much looking forward to meeting the goats...

And finally, all the interns are very pleased indeed to see the return of the Cardinal's Arms to fully operational status - Dom and Clare are particularly enjoying contributing to the team, and Im sure the bar will act as a real social magnet within the house.


Wednesday, 16 January 2008

January blues

A post from a distinctly grotty-feeling and rough-sounding Will here. Have been labouring for two weeks under what feels like the worst bout of man-flu I have ever experienced... nasty cold and headache, but alas not nasty enough to keep me from work! I must confess to only having come across this concept of ailment in the last year or so, and was initially sceptical, but I can honestly say it's as bad as it sounds - must have something to do with my age.

Anyhow, we've all settled back into the swing of things now, returning to work and play with renewed vigour after our break. Seems like I havent been away though - have been ploughing through a fair bit of casework recently, learning in depth all the various problems of the Child Support Agency! It is time consuming, but actually very inspiring to take on cases of people who are at their wit's end, and have turned to their MP as their last hope of resolving some particularly pressing and unpleasant issues. It doesnt happen often, but it is also a fantastic feeling to receive a letter from a constituent thanking us for our time and dedication to resolving their problems. Go interns!

The parliamentary term is a rather odd one this term - we have a half term recess in about a month's time, which makes for a lovely antidote to any new year blues one may be feeling (mainly due to the austere regime of cold showers we've been experiencing recently), and some of the interns are planning a little jaunt abroad for a few days to make the most of the break. And we're all looking forward to future trips to Brussels and Rome in the coming months! Quite the jet-setters aren't we!?!

Monday, 7 January 2008

2008 begins!

First post of the new year - all four of us have returned to Newman House fully refreshed after a Christmas break and a fair bit of rest, relaxation and perhaps a little too much over-indulgence... well, on my part at least!

Here we go for another parliamentary session - the house returned today and we're back into the thick of it. Dom's MP John Pugh was moved the to the treasury team by new Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg today, from the health team, which means Dom has a fair bit of reading to do to familiarise himself with the new brief!

Looking forward to a trip to the Westminster Children's Society on Friday - our fully rounded experience continues!

Great to be back in Newman House - lots of friendly faces to catch up with, and we're all looking forward to a big, beginning of term night out on Friday hopefully!

More from me soon...