Anna Griem

Dispatch from the British House of Commons, Part Three

Anna Luise Griem, a class of 2011 Political Science student, writes:

On April 6th the Prime Minister drove to Buckingham Palace in order to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and to call a new election.  This meant that Christine Russell, the Labour Member of Parliament for whom I have worked since October, had to relinquish her title and launch her reelection campaign.  This was the start of a speedy month of campaigning that ended with a result that the UK has not seen since 1974.

Following this announcement, my fellow interns, researchers and caseworkers all dispersed around the United Kingdom to the 646 different constituencies.  I packed my backpack and moved in with my boss, two hours northwest of London to the City of Chester, an old Roman city that is now known as the setting of a popular teen soap opera, Hollyoaks.  As the election didn't stop people from calling and writing to Christine to ask for her help and for her opinions, much of my work in Chester was largely dealing with constituency correspondence, just as it had been back in the House of Commons.  Meeting Chester's branch of the Labour Party, watching Christine debate the other candidates, registering people to vote, leafleting, canvassing and door knocking, however, were all new activities to me.

The campaign in Chester very much followed the national trend.  Although the conservative candidate won and after thirteen years of service Christine unfortunately lost her seat, it was not the resounding win that the Conservative Party had hoped for.  Instead, the swing from Labour to Conservatives was just 3.9%.  This was the lowest swing in the entire Northwest!  Obviously it is sad to have lost...but the team behind Christine put in a huge effort and I think everyone felt happy with the campaign we had run.

It has been fascinating to be in the UK at this pivotal time in which a complete realignment of British politics could be seen.  On the national level, although the Conservatives won the most seats, none of the parties won enough to govern with a majority.  Because of this, the Conservatives asked the Liberal Democrats to enter into a formal coalition with them.  When the Lib Dems agreed to this partnership, shockwaves could be felt throughout the country.  Although the Lib Dems maybe did not have a good case for rejecting the offer, many of their supporters felt incredibly betrayed that their party would prop up a Conservative Government.  On the day that David Cameron, the new Prime Minister, took over at number 10 Downing Street as the leader of the Conservative-Liberal Coalition, the Labour Party's website had so many people trying to join that it actually stopped working.

Of course I am excited to get back to Vermont this summer, but I would love to stick around in London and see what it would be like to work for a Labour MP in opposition to the coalition Con-Lib Government.  This Parliament could last for the next five years, so perhaps I may just be able to do that.

Anna is spending the 2009/2010 Parliamentary year in London, interning at the British House of Commons for the Honorable Christine Russell, Labour MP for the City of Chester. Throughout the academic year, Anna has shared her observations about working in a foreign government so they can be chronicled in the CAS e-NEWS.