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YFG Blog - House of Lords Internship - News - Young Fine Gael

YFG Blog - House of Lords Internship

Blog post from YFG Member John McGahon on his experiences while interning in the House of Lords this summer.

Recently I have just finished a ten week internship with Lord Storey in The House of Lords. I have known Mike for just under four years. After my Leaving Cert I decided to take a year out, it was August 2009 and I started to apply for internships on parliamentary campaigns for the British General Election of May 2010. I ended up in the Liberal Democrat target seat of Liverpool Wavertree, part of my employment package was free accommodation which turned out to be with Mike and his family. Mike is a veteran of Liverpudlian politics, having spent 37 years as a city councillor, leader of the council for seven years and Lord Mayor. Indeed he has been credited as the man behind Liverpool's dramatic economic revival. Once the Lib Dem's became the junior coalition partners, Mike was quickly elevated to the Lords as the Lord Storey of Childwall in the County of Merseyside. Since February 2011, Mike has settled in quickly, he is now Co-Chair of Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on Education, Families and Young People.

The House of Lords has been described as many things, archaic, an old boys club, or as former Labour Minister Tony Benn noted, 'The British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians'. However after working here I have come to disagree with many of these descriptions. The House of Lords is full of brilliant minds, experts in every field from constitutional law to environmental issues. I was astounded at how incredibly hard working many Peers are, especially those who shared an office with Mike. There was Lord Roberts (of Llandudno), who has often been described as the grandfather of Welsh liberalism, a Methodist Minister who has stood for Parliament five times and came within a whisker on two occasions. Then there was Lord Greaves (of Pendle), Tony was an expert in local government and was the brains behind the Lib Dem's increasing their number of councillors during the 1990's. Another Lord, who I first meet during my time in Liverpool is Chris Rennard, Chris is a former chief executive of the Lib Dems. Chris's contribution to party simply cannot be comprehended; he is a political tactician of immense proportions. He engineered stunning by-election victories for the party over three decades, I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by these political heavyweights, who between them had given over a century towards the advancement of liberalism and their party.

On my first day in the Lords I was thrown into the deep end, having had no previous background in the British education system, I was asked to help draft Mike's top four policy suggestions which would be fed into the general election manifesto for 2015. Not only was this a daunting task, I really had to question did I even know what I was writing about. I had to learn quickly, and after a week I soon got to grips with the basics. What I love about working in politics is that every single day is different with new goals and objectives. Mike is currently leading on the Children and Families Bill, this invariably took up a lot of my time. Hours of research where poured into preparing specific briefings, which was aimed at keeping Mike constantly updated on the Bill's passage through the Commons. Mike was concerned about three particular aspects of the Bills, medicine in schools, young offenders, and young carers. This involved meeting with countless lobbyists, academic experts and community organisations, taking on board all of their views and then drafting the amendments that we felt could improve the day to day lives of these three groups.

I also spent a lot of time working alongside a non-profit organisation called Bite The Ballot, whose aim is to dramatically increase the number of young people registered to vote by May 2015. I acted as a legislative advisor for the organisation, writing briefings on how we can initiate a Private Members Bill in the Lords to bring about changes to make every interaction with government a chance to register to vote. Bite the Ballot has a dedicated and passionate team, I would really recommend everyone in Young Fine Gael to keep an eye out for them over the next two years. There would be certainly chances to cooperate, and I believe both organisations could learn from each other.

After a few weeks I was given the responsibility of writing Mike's speeches, I would come up with a first draft, Mike would make a few suggestions and I would go from there with it, usually it would take a good two days to fully research and draft a speech, there really isn't any room for mistakes. However this did not stop me from mentioning the economic benefits of the Berlin Love Festival towards German tourism in Mike's speech on the UK Music Tour Industry. Unknown to me, the Berlin Love Festival had been cancelled three years ago, due to poor safety standards. I know the importance of triple checking my work. There really is nothing more exciting then to listen to a speech that you have created, being read out in the upper house of a national parliament. Another story I don't think I'll be able to live down is losing to a hereditary Peer, who was twice my age, in a push up competition in the Commons Bar, I got 48, he embarrassed me with 90. I suppose there is a first time for everything.

My time in the House of Lords is an experience I will never forgot, I have met people from all walks of life, people who are driven by a hunger to make their communities better and people who just want to play their part in making life easier for those less fortunate. I cannot say thank you enough to Mike, he is an excellent politician, with a great team of staff around him. Mike's team is led by his brilliant Research Assistant Oliver Sidorczuk whom I learned a great deal from. To be able to watch and learn from Mike and Oliver over these ten weeks has certainly been a learning curve of immense proportions. Returning to Ireland I am now looking forward to the next chapter and the year ahead.

*John McGahon can be followed on twitter here.

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