Joanne Frey is an assistant to a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.
Sitting in my office at home with the sun shining in and ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ quietly on in the background, the General Election seems an age away.
The past weeks have been filled with setting up new email addresses, buying stamps, plain envelopes and gathering files for possible future use. This is all alongside dealing with the usual day-to-day running of the Westminster office and keeping my occasionally fraught Member calm at all times.
To be fair, he has been remarkably relaxed about the election. He single-handedly tidied the mountain of papers and files on his desk pre-Dissolution. I admit to feeling somewhat redundant in that I didn’t need to stand there armed with the rubbish bin to ensure the task was efficiently completed, as is usually the case. I hastily add, since I know someone somewhere is bound to pick up on this, that not all papers and files on the Member’s desk end up in the bin.
As well as MPs – pardon my error – Prospective Parliamentary Candidates, staff of candidates have also had to vacate their Westminster offices. My parliamentary pass, email address and phone number are all void and I’m not to set foot in the confines of Westminster until after election day. I am desperately missing my large americano of a morning and have the full nine stamps on my coffee card so I will be entitled to a free one on my first day back.
What I don’t miss is my tube journey into Westminster each day. It has been cumbersome to say the least, having to decamp and to gradually transfer part of my parliamentary office to my office at home. I have every confidence that my Member will retain his seat which is fortunate, since I think it will probably take a couple of HGVs to remove all of the contents of his office should he be unsuccessful. Should the unthinkable occur there is a bright side – there are a couple of his personal items that I have definitely been eyeing up with a view to bringing them home – one in particular would look superb on my mantelpiece. I will, however, broach this delicate subject at the appropriate time and not before.
Having worked for a former Member who did lose his seat unexpectedly some years back, I found myself unemployed overnight. It was left to me not only to discard the contents of my office but of his, too, since he was so distraught at the result he couldn’t bring himself to help. Fortunately, he had one of the ‘broom cupboard’ offices in the main building, so it wasn’t such a gruesome task. I also worked for another former Member who won his seat many years ago with a breathtakingly low majority. I vowed afterwards that I wouldn’t attend a count ever again.
I am still dealing with constituents who remain blissfully unaware of election protocol. As far as they are concerned, my boss is still their MP and should be getting on with helping them. He should be stating clearly his views on cycling, farming, animal welfare and pubs. He should still be pulling out the stops to sort out their problems with housing, hospital appointments, immigration, neighbours, and council tax. Why should they know any different? I will carry on doing my best to assist whilst dealing with the post, phone calls and keeping the diary up to date for after the election.
Because, post-election, life will go on and I kind of look forward to savouring that large americano (to go).