Life as a recent(ish) graduate in London has a lot of pros. For me, one is my proximity to the PLMR offices. With a hop down to Vauxhall, a skip over Vauxhall bridge and down the bank of the Thames, and a jump through the beating of heart of the UK Government and Civil Service, Marsham Street, I arrive at the South Door of Church House.
A lobbyist’s work calendar is very cyclical, operating along the ebbs and flows of the Parliamentary calendar and its autumn peaks and winter lulls.
Parliament is only sitting for a few more weeks before the next recess, and there is a (long) list of things that need to be done for clients, projects, and the wider PLMR team before MPs break for conference season. September can be frantic, but it’s equally exciting, and that is what public affairs is all about.
Every day is different in public affairs, like with many industries; but there are few I’d rather be working in. We all have emails, briefings, plans and strategies to develop; but few jobs allow you to do that whilst working in and around the Houses of Parliament, influencing the policies which impact the lives of people right across the country.
There isn’t a better demonstration of juggling the everyday activities with the extraordinary activities than a day in the life of a PLMR Healthcomms team member during the early September rush.
Wednesday 28th June 2023
8:15am – Leave the House and Walk to the Office
Oval -> Vauxhall -> Down the Thames -> Marsham St. -> Church House
8:45am – Arrive at Office… emails, emails, emails!
When everything is happening around you, it’s often the early bird that catches the worm. With an Emergency General Meeting for an All-Party Parliamentary Group and a meeting in Portcullis House ahead, getting as many emails out of the way as possible is vital.
Of course, these emails are accompanied by a coffee.
9:15am – Leave for Parliament
Working in public affairs can often feel like working at the extremes, and in unpredictable environments – and the queues to get into the Parliamentary estate are no different. Your wait is either 30 minutes, or 30 seconds, and you can never know which – so always leave yourself plenty of time to navigate the security process.
After a quick security check, you’re into Portcullis House, a building you get to know very well. Coming out of security and into the atrium of Portcullis is also the closest I think I’ve come to walking into a Tardis and/or Diagon Alley, with its domed glass roof and secret passage to Westminster Underground Station, it really is a spectacle.
Once you ask reception where your room is, despite already knowing, you’re up and in the waiting room, waiting for the attendees of the meeting before you to leave your room, hoping you get those ten critical pre-meeting minutes to set up and brief the client.
10:00am – All-Party Parliamentary Group Emergency General Meeting
The client arrives, and following a quick briefing, the fun commences.
Getting more than one MP in one room at one time can be a challenge, especially when the ones you were expecting are stuck in another meeting… or on their train … or in the chamber… or just about anywhere that isn’t your meeting.
However, after a few laps around the atrium of Portcullis House, you have found a few Parliamentarians happy to do you a favour and help your APPG achieve quorum, and before you know it, you’re done… success!
10:30am – Back to the Office
One of the joys of working at PLMR is our proximity to Parliament. Once your meeting is over, it’s only a short walk past the Houses of Parliament, over Parliament Square, past Westminster Abbey and you’re home, just in time to cram in a few emails before you’re up and out all over again.
11:00-14:00 – Event Preparation
With two events in the next two weeks, time is precious, especially with speakers needing to be confirmed, briefings needing to be drafted and the Parliamentary Events team needing to be called.
Although not passed in Parliament, Parkinson’s Law affects public affairs consultants as much as any piece of legislation, especially during busy periods, with admin crammed swiftly and effectively into the slot you’ve got.
12:30 – Lunch
A much-needed deep breath (and a Tesco Meal Deal – Chicken Club Sandwich, Salt and Vinegar McCoys and a Coke Zero).
14:00 – Leave for Parliament (again)
Bag is packed (no aerosols or liquids of course), and we’re back off to Parliament, this time to meet an MP about NHS performance in their constituency and how this can be optimised.
Back to the Portcullis House entrance and its security team, who recognise you from earlier on in the day. This is either as a weird flex (in the public affairs world), or a little bit sad (in the real world)… I choose the former.
For a lobbyist, getting the opportunity to sit down and speak to a Parliamentarian in the relatively informal setting of Portcullis House is invaluable. Whilst important, MPs are (generally) very normal people, and being able to sit down and hash out their concerns and your solutions is both personally invigorating and professionally essential.
14:15 – Waiting
MPs are busy people, which sometimes leaves you waiting in the hustling and bustling waiting room of Portcullis House. Not to worry though, it’s not like you have anything else going on!
14:40 – Hello MP!
Your MP turns up and you find a nice table in the atrium of Portcullis House.
The conversation is back-and-forth, no slides or paraphernalia, just a good honest chat about what is happening to the NHS in the MPs constituency and what opportunities can be created by the better distribution of medical technologies across the country.
The chat is so good that you’ve overran, with the MP genuinely interested in the research you’ve done and the support they can offer! The MPs staff are also with you, politely trying to tell you to shut up and get their MP to move on… nothing the promise of an apologetic coffee won’t solve.
Your meeting ends and the MP is hurried off to their next engagement, however, your messages went down well, the client is happy, and so is the PLMR account team.
15:10 – Back to the Office
Westminster is in constant flux, with each day’s order paper as varied as your own diary – with the only constant being the throng of tourists lingering for photos around Big Ben and Parliament Square: a constant barrier to you getting to where you need to be next.
15:20 – A Cuppa
No day at the PLMR Healthcomms desk is complete without a 3:00pm-3:30pm cup of tea, thankfully, the swarms of tourists haven’t delayed you too much, and you’re back in perfect time.
15:30-17:55 – Back to the emails, briefings and admin… those events won’t organise themselves!
18:00 – Home… ish
To have a drink, or not to have a drink? That is the question for colleagues after a long day, and today, having suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous diary management, it has to be a drink.
With a spoil of pubs around the PLMR Office, there isn’t much a quick trip to the Westminster Arms can’t help with. One for me and one for the MPs staffer whose diary was ruined by my meeting earlier.
19:30 – Home!