Interview with a Parliamentary Researcher



Adam Lehodey has been a parliamentary researcher for a Conservative MP in the House of Commons, since January 2020. Alongside this role, he is pursuing his studies and writing on his blog in his free time: adamlehodey.com

What is your job title?

Parliamentary Researcher to a Member of Parliament.

Where do you work?

In Parliament, with a mix of remote and in-person work.

What do you do?

I get asked this a lot, but it really is so diverse and depends a lot on what your MP’s areas of interest are. The core thing most parliamentary researchers/assistants will do is help manage the MP’s correspondence with their constituents, keeping on top of the hundreds of emails they get every week. Some of them I can answer directly myself and are relatively simple, but others might require me to draft policy responses for the MP to look over or take further action such as writing to a Minister or submitting written parliamentary questions. I will draft the letters as well as the questions and any statements. That takes up about 30 – 40% of my time.

On top of that there is all the current parliament activity. For example, whenever bills are going through Parliament, I will be asked to do research on those. My job is to give the MP an understanding of the issues and help him decide which way to vote.

Finally, each MP has their own policy interests which staff will assist with. I often assist with work relating to foreign affairs, working closely with organisations like Amnesty International to raise awareness on human rights issues and to call on the Government to take action for instance.

What was your route to getting here?

I’ve always had an interest in politics. A couple of years ago I interned at the Institute of Economic Affairs and got a good understanding about working in politics there. I also volunteered for the local Conservative party and helped the current MP I work for a lot on his campaign for the 2019 General Election.

That was how I made the connection with him. That January, following the general election, the MP I now work for was running an internal campaign in Parliament and asked if I would like to help on that for three weeks. After three (quite intense) weeks working on this campaign, I was offered a full-time Parliamentary position in his office.

Getting a role as a parliamentary researcher or assistant can be helped by making or having that personal connection, especially if you don’t have previous parliamentary or political experience, but it is also very possible to get a role working for an MP through more formal routes and MPs will often advertise roles online.

Why public policy?

It is something really impactful, especially the foreign affairs work. You can really feel that it is making a difference. We recently did a lot on Afghanistan. There’s always something going on which is what I really like about it as it’s never repetitive and there’s always something interesting happening. The work you get to do is also meaningful and you are supporting an important part of our democracy. That’s what really attracted me to this role.

What is rewarding about your sector?

In addition to the above, there is the satisfaction of doing something that you really enjoy along with the variety of the role. Also, the people you meet – there are some really interesting people across Westminster as well as meeting the constituents at surgeries. It’s just great meeting all these different people.

What is success for you?

When you get that response from a Minister you’ve been looking for or when you’ve been campaigning for weeks and finally get that breakthrough, that’s when you know you’ve been successful. The thing about politics is that it is not always about seeing an immediate result, it is more going through the process and seeing the progress.

What are the challenges facing public policy?

People have come to expect MPs to have almost super-human capabilities. They expect MPs to be able to solve every problem, even those outside of politics, and to work all hours of the day. Every writer expects a personalised response from their MP, but also expects their MP to be working on dozens of other issues.

I would say unrealistic expectations are the biggest challenge. We’ll always try and help in any way we can but there are sometimes things which are outside the realm of politics and that people must resolve for themselves.

What has been your worst job experience?

Personally, I have been very lucky and you can always learn from your mistakes and my colleagues are very supportive. I once sent out an email to the wrong set of constituents who were a little bit confused but even then everyone was very understanding!

What has been your best job experience?

Being in Parliament you can really feel the history and the importance of the institution and the decisions that have been made there. That’s one of the best things about it. For an individual experience, whenever we’ve been working on something substantially and we hear a decision has been made about it in our favour. That’s always a great experience.

Another achievement that really stands out for me was running for Surrey County Council this year. Although I didn’t win the seat, it was a formidable experience running the whole campaign online as we weren’t able to go out and campaign in person. I also learnt a great deal about politics, communication, and campaigning throughout so would recommend it.

What would you tell those wanting to work in the sector?

You have to enjoy the job intrinsically. It is true that working in Parliament or for a think-tank is a good stepping-stone, but unless you actually enjoy the work, it’ll get tough. That being said, it’s a sector with such a wide variety of jobs and positions so there’s something for everyone.

What do you look for when hiring?

In a CV and a cover letter, even to get an interview, we want to see your passion coming through. We also want to see an attention to detail, especially for a researcher position. When we interview people and they clearly haven’t done their research on what policy areas the MP is interested in, it doesn’t look great. So do your research beforehand and make it clear that you have done that research. Curiosity is good and an ability to think outside the box as well as having the initiative to go above and beyond and do some extra research on what else the MP has done and ask questions about it. Be genuinely interested in the work that the MP does.

If you had one sentence of advice what would it be?

Do it because you love it.

 

Quickfire!

 First job after graduation

I haven’t graduated yet

Degree subject

Economics & Computer Science

Morning lark or night owl

Lark

Summer or winter

Summer

Worst paid job

Probably this one!

Favourite policy area

Drug policy reform

Reports or events

Events

What are you reading right now?

Debt: The first 5,000 years by David Graeber

When you’re not working what are you doing?

Travelling, reading, blogging, going to events, seeing friends and family

Most excited about in 2022

Attending more events in person

 


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