If you would like to volunteer to assist the local Conservative Association please call their office on: 020 7730 8181.
Politics is essentially about trying to influence the world and attempting to make a difference to how things work. There are many ways to get involved in politics, whether you are interested in campaigning on single issues, affiliating yourself with a particular political party or involving yourself in the local community.
A natural route into politics for many is to join a political party. You align yourself with people of similar values and can get more opportunities to debate, campaign, influence the political agenda and mix with people in the political world. You can find local branches of the three main political parties in most areas, and getting in touch with people at your local branch can be a good way to enter the political scene. There are also party branches at most universities as well as youth wings such as Conservative Future, Liberal Democrat Youth and Students, and Young Labour.
Naturally many people prefer not to join political parties but still have an avid interest in politics. The last decade or so has witnessed the emergence of a whole host of single issue groups on everything from the environment to the rights of car owners. The best way of finding a group that shares your views is to look on the internet. Many groups regularly run campaigns and often contact MPs in an attempt to influence government policy in their favour.
You may simply wish to make a practical difference at a local level, for instance by helping out at your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). CAB is one of the UK’s largest volunteer organisations and helps people with a whole range of issues such as benefits, debt management and immigration. You can find a variety of other local volunteering opportunities by visiting http://www.do-it.org.uk where voluntary positions can be found in anything from environmental and cultural schemes to youth work.
You may wish to get involved with one of the several residents’ associations in the constituency which address community issues and campaign for local people, such as the Knightsbridge Association and the South East Bayswater Residents Association (SEBRA). Westminster City Council also holds area forums to involve local residents and businesses in local policy decisions. To find out more about area forums, click here.
Not everybody wants to join organisations or attend meetings, but there are still options open to those who wish to get involved. You can attend local political lectures and seminars. The London School of Economics, for instance, is one of a number of universities to have a public lecture programme where you can listen to major figures speak about the issues of the day. You may wish to join a local debating club, such as the Society of Cogers, which has been running in the City of London since 1755. The internet is also providing a new arena for political debate, and you may wish to start your own blog, post articles on political websites or sign online petitions. And, of course, you can always write directly to your MP with your thoughts!
Getting a job in Politics
If you are passionate about politics and want to make a career out of it, there are a number of different jobs available in the political arena. You may wish to:
- Work for an MP
MPs normally have two offices, one in Parliament and another in their constituency. The types of roles available in an MP’s office can vary (secretary, researcher, office manager, caseworker) but an MP normally has up to three paid full-time members of staff and is sometimes aided by an intern or volunteer.
- Work for the government
You may wish to become a civil servant and work in a government department or one of the government’s executive agencies. There is a huge variety of jobs available in the civil service, and the government runs its own recruitment website – www.careers.civil-service.gov.uk/. If you are a university graduate, you may prefer to join the civil service faststream, although this can be a very competitive route.
- Work for a political party
The main political parties employ a number of staff in their head offices. A range of opportunities can be available, such as being a press officer or an events organiser. You could also get the chance to shape future policy – the Conservative Party, for instance, has its own research department which helps to form the party line.
- Work in a think tank
Think tanks are organisations which attempt to shape policy by conducting research in the areas of social or political strategy. Well-known think tanks include the Adam Smith Institute, IPPR, the Centre for Policy Studies, Civitas, and the Fabian Society.
- Work for a lobby group
Lobby groups promote a particular cause or interest and try to influence public policy.
- Work for a political consultancy
Political consultancies can perform a number of tasks for their clients. They monitor parliamentary activity and advise how this will affect their clients, they can help with drafting submissions to government bodies, they can lobby and they can try to raise their clients’ profiles so they are better understood by those in government.
- Work for the local council
The council helps people with a range of things from housing and planning to social services. You may wish to get a job assisting the council in their work or you may prefer to become an unpaid elected councillor, promoting the interests of those living in your ward.
- Work for a charity
There are charities for many different causes, and many of the larger charities offer their own internships and graduate programmes.
- Work in international development
This can be a very competitive area, particularly if you want to work in a body such as the United Nations. You may wish to work for an NGO (non-governmental organisation) specialising in aid to developing countries, for example, or get involved in international diplomacy. There are sometimes jobs available at embassies, most of which are based in London, or you may wish to apply to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office via the civil service recruitment process. A number of think tanks such as Chatham House and the Foreign Policy Centre specialise in international relations.
- Work in the political affairs section of a large business
Increasingly large firms are beginning to understand the importance of politics to their business. Some have in-house political consultants to promote their business in Parliament and to explain how government policy will affect them.
- Work in the media
You may wish to become a political commentator or reporter for one of the many political journals, newspapers, and websites. This can be a competitive industry, and it may be best to start by contributing to local publications.
Entry-level jobs in the political arena are not normally highly paid but there is often stiff competition for them. To land your dream job, it can help to have relevant experience on your CV, and it might be worthwhile to undertake voluntary work or start an unpaid internship to demonstrate your interest in politics.
The ‘Working for an MP’ website is an invaluable source for discovering paid and unpaid opportunities currently available in parliament, think tanks, consultancies and other public affairs organisations. It also offers guides on working for Members of Parliament.