THE INDUSTRY IN LONDON
Britain has a lengthy and historically significant political structure which continues to see great change. No recent development is more significant than Brexit. This big unknown weighs heavily on the politics of the country, and will undoubtedly have significant ripple effects across the UK in the coming years.
There are three major political parties in the United Kingdom; the Conservative Party, which is associated with center-right politics; the Labour Party; which represents center-left; and the Liberal Democrats, who sit the further to the left.
London is home to Parliament and serves as the base of the UK political system. The UK Government and political system have a number of features which distinguish it from other, similar systems. For example, cabinet posts such as the Foreign Minister (similar to the Secretary of State) or Chancellor of the Exchequer (Secretary of the Treasury) are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister from amongst elected MPs. This means a number of MPs hold dual roles, furthering specific policy and initiatives while also supporting the interests of their constituency. The opposition (minority) party leader will appoint his or her own Shadow Cabinet of MPs who develop alternative policies and critique the performance of the corresponding government ministers.
Many political action groups, think tanks, international political organizations, and NGOs are also based in London. Becoming involved in politics in Britain can offer opportunities to observe issues not only at the macro level but also at the micro level, such as working with voters on the issues directly affecting their everyday lives.
|There are no FIE internships based in the Parliament building. This is due to the highly competitive nature of politics as well as the strict security measures on those working in the House of Commons. For exceptionally strong performers, certain placements may be able to offer an intern an opportunity to attend a meeting or event at Parliament, but students with their heart set on working in the Parliament building should think very seriously about whether the FIE program is the right one for them.
Students who choose Politics may be placed in any of the opportunities below. If a particular sub-area catches your eye, let us know on your MyInternship form.
Members of Parliament & Constituencies
Interning in the constituency office of a Member of Parliament (MP) is a unique opportunity to experience how the UK Parliamentary system works. In comparison to the members of the US Congress, MPs are typically more closely linked to their constituents and local issues and spend a great deal of time in their community, responding to issues that concern local residents. This means that interns will often find that the work they are involved with is more local than national. Interns usually work in supporting the office of the MP and/or political party, typically undertaking tasks such as casework, research projects, assisting with campaigns, and attracting new voters.
Political Parties & Campaigning
Campaigning is central to the success of any political organization and is organized on local, national and international levels. Students interested in campaigning can be based in a local, regional or main office. Tasks could include researching positions, writing policy papers, communications, and social media work, PR and media relations, as well as going out into the community to hand out leaflets and speak with residents. The amount and subject of campaigning will depend on the election cycle and upcoming general and local votes.
Pressure Groups and Lobbying Organizations
Political organizations can be governmental or non-governmental and may include pressure groups, trade unions, and charitable organizations. They seek to analyze and influence policy or legislation to achieve certain aims. Such groups differ in focus, political orientation, and the methods in which they campaign. Interns in this area may engage in research, project work, political analysis, writing, and media relations. If there are particular causes which interest you, please note these on MyInternship but use your communication skills to make it clear to your Internship Mentor that you understand specific requests may not be possible and note you are open to a role in any area of focus (otherwise, you might not be considered for the full variety of roles available).
REALITIES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Students wishing to intern within politics need to state with which British political party they most closely affiliate with. This information will be used by your Internship Mentor to identify suitable opportunities. Keep in mind that, as FIE does not organize internships which are based in the Parliament building, placements with MPs are limited to constituencies in the London area. For example, there are 54 MPs from the Scottish National Party in Parliament, but all of their constituencies are located in Scotland so there are no opportunities for an internship with the Scottish National Party. After the 2015 election, the number of Liberal Democrat MPs went from to 7 to 1, dramatically reducing the number of placements available to FIE interns.
Constituency offices are (obviously) limited to one per constituency, so placements in these offices are not concentrated in central London. Students seeking placements in politics must be prepared to commute anywhere in the Greater London area. On average, politics interns will have longer commute times than interns in other industries.
The election cycle is not fixed in the UK, so elections can be called at any time. Just before an election, there is increased campaign activity, and most placements during this time will heavily feature campaign tasks. Just after an election, there will be few campaign tasks. Additionally, professionals in the industry often take a well-deserved break, dramatically reducing the number of available internships. If there has been a big shift in representation, FIE will need time to make new connections in the industry. Often, news and media coverage of an election fuels increased student demand for political placements. However, given students apply to the FIE program far in advance of the internship, by the time they arrive the election has likely passed and in the post-election period fewer placements are available.
Internship placements in this sector are looking for interns with political commitment and an understanding of the UK political system, not just an academic interest. Interns must take the time to describe how their internship connects with their professional and personal objectives.
- Applied knowledge of politics
- Understanding of both home country and UK political systems and parties
- Awareness of important political issues and debates at both the domestic and international level
- Attention to detail and ability to problem solve
- Sensitivity to confidential issues
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to work collaboratively as part of team
- Willingness to have a longer than average commute
Relevant academic experience. Applicable majors include Political Science, Law, International Relations, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Education, and Community Development.
TIPS AND TRICKS: SHOWING YOU'RE A STRONG CANDIDATE
- Describing your affinity for a particular political party can make you a more attractive candidate for that party. Take the time to really research the different parties so that you can clearly articulate what about them attracts your attention. Students without strong political party views can describe the causes and issues which matter most to them.
- Previous experience in the industry is desirable. Be sure to list any experience campaigning for local politicians or serving in student government.