Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Local Politics

So I ended up with a job in a constituency office rather than in the actual parliament building. This means that my job is lots of writing press releases and letters as well as some work helping solve the problems they bring to my boss as her constituent.

I was initially a bit disappointed to be placed in a constituency office instead of in the Parliament, but I think it is quite useful and meaningful for me to see the very local side of politics. I’ve realized that I came with a notion of politics as something focused on policy and a vehicle for politician’s prestige and power. Instead, I’ve seen a politics very much focused on people. 

I’ve been really impressed by my boss, Angela, whose an MSP (minister of scottish parliament) and the cabinet secretary for education (aka she's in charge of education in Scotland). She strikes me as someone who is involved in politics because she genuinely wants to help people. The other day she walked into office on the phone and I overheard the tail end of her discussion about how to focus the new funds being allocated to close the attainment gap into the areas that need them most. Then, she hung up, and immediately switched to the issue of how to help one local schoolboy who came to her surgery with complaints of bullying in his school.  I was really impressed with her ability to care for an individual constituent as well as manage national policy. It was very striking that she didn’t have the sense of something like schoolyard bullying being too small for her. The concept of a constituent seems to mean something different here, because there exists a very real sense of obligation to help their constituents with their actual, concrete problems, not their broad, theoretical ones. Constituents are not just votes cast every so often; they are a very real responsibility. 


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