First day of term: what it’s like to be a new MP
As the new intake of parliamentarians settle into their roles, Dods Monitoring’s Hannah French describes the challenges they will face
The first day of any new job is always set with uncertainty and the sense of being overwhelmed, given the array of new people and processes you’re expected to quickly get to grips with.
In Westminster today, there will be 182 new MPs who may be feeling similar as they enter the House of Commons to formally start the roles they had coveted for so long.
Navigating the Palace of Westminster, setting up their offices, getting up to speed on archaic standing orders - the range of things on the new Members’ to do list will be extensive.
In a 2011 Hansard Society study of newly elected legislators, MPs were largely positive about the induction and support they received in the early weeks of office, though many reported a feeling of ‘information overload’ as they began to get to grips with their work in Parliament.
A few years after the 2010 election, the House of Commons Administration Committee held an inquiry into the induction arrangements for new MPs considering areas from office accommodation, IT, financial support and orientation. In the same way an office may be unprepared for new starters, many MPs may be required to hot desk in temporary accommodation until their rooms are allocated. Alternatively, some share the already busy offices of returning MPs. This last arrangement was cited as particularly advantageous to those wide-eyed MPs seeking support and advice in their first few weeks.
As in many jobs, it won’t take long for MPs to quickly identify the challenge of balancing long working hours with their own personal lives. Particularly in Parliament, there is the additional complication of operating effectively a dual role – both as legislatures and holding the Government account, as well as local representatives. MPs will be faced with prioritising their responsibilities (and energies); whether focusing on securing their own backbench debate or spending valuable time back in the constituencies that had been their only focus for the months preceding election, amid differing perceptions of what their core role as an MP is. Indeed, a large number of the new intake in 2010 reported that long working hours and Westminster and constituency demands had a detrimental effect on their personal and family lives.
With most jobs, there is a probation period to enable employers and their newest recruits to assess the role and progress made so far. For MPs, there is no such period of reflection. What many MPs may therefore be aiming for is to have reached a point where the realities of the job are living up to their long-held expectations.
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