It’s a universal fact – MPs get a lot of post.
Pity, then, the poor researcher/caseworker/intern/slave who has to go through the sacks of post, rafts of emails and forests of faxes.
Many a poor MPs bag carrier has been declared dead at St Thomas Hospital after prolonged paper asphyxiation when an 8 foot pile of paper has fallen on top of them.
Of course much of this traffic is important constituency or government business. Well, some of it is.
Most of the correspondence tends to be lobby groups inviting the MP to lunches or receptions, press statements from the Cuba/Palestine/vegans alliance/solidarity/liberation campaign or newspapers and magazines we’ve never subscribed to (I still don’t understand why funeral Directors Monthly keeps sending us their wares)
Every office tends to deal with correspondence differently – Olvier Letwin tends to just bin it all in the park – I’m not sure Gordon Browns office even bother anymore – I tend to grade the post into 5 different piles 1. Urgent Business 2. Constituency Casework/Research/Committee papers 3. Events and briefings 4. Circulars/petitions. 5. Nutters.
Of course most of this is routine – Urgent stuff is dealt with urgently be it a green slip or a message from the whips, letters about Cats up trees, cracks in pavements and government policy get processed and Events are graded on the amount of free booze which might be on offer.
Circulars get read during the lunch hour (I never Bin Total Politics, I always bin Parliamentary Brief) and petitions get replied to but the nutters? That’s a whole other issue.
Nutters broadly fall into two categories – there’s the conspiracy or angry nutters who like to send conspiracy or angry stuff and then there’s the truly weird stuff.
I understand about half of the estate receive an almost daily (sometimes thrice daily) fax from someone claiming to be persecuted by MI5 – we used to keep a file but threw it out after it filled a second A4 lever arch file – I suspect the security services have people with actual issues around blowing things up to persecute mind.
Then there’s the guys from Lossiemouth or outer Preston who feel the need to write in and say that your boss is going to lose the next election because they failed to support their viewpoint on Europe, Fox Hunting or Scottish Independence, usually attaching poorly shaped newspaper cuttings to illustrate they were foaming at the mouth at the time of writing. Typically these letters start with ‘How dare you listen to the whips! You should listen to me!’ Well you’re not a constituent so don’t expect a reply ranty person.
Then there’s the frankly weird stuff – free mugs from the Cuba/Palestine/vegans alliance/solidarity/liberation campaign (We did keep a rather attractive Adam Boulton mug Sky sent us mind) empty cans signifying god only knows, books about Oil, or Kosovo or self-written autobiographies, DVD’s (we once got sent a used copy of Micahel Moore’s ‘Sicko’ because ‘we would enjoy it’) 40 bottles of gone off Beer (a gift from a local brewery which had expired some years before hand which was either incompetent or a pointed metaphor) and last week a tree from a campaign which didn’t want the government to burn trees for energy but turn them into tables – I despair at how much money these people have.
Of course the latest shadow to cast its darkness over the humble parliamentary researcher is the dreaded 38 Degrees mass email lobby – hundreds of people whipped up into a fever over some government policy or other. The effect on our end is dozens of emails with exactly the same badly drafted letter explaining why people should be angry about something which the individuals involved probably haven’t read.
It does amuse me that, after the humble parliamentary researcher has spent hours going through the address fields of each cloned email, carefully crafted a letter or email response and replied to everyone concerning all the salient points they have collectively raised that most of these people either come back with ‘why are you contacting me about this?’ or complain that ‘we wanted a personal response not a standard letter you lazy scumbag!’ but I digress, we just got some more post…