How do you influence policy? Is it better to embed yourself in a political environment such as the House of Commons, working for an MP to drive forward their campaigns and policy objectives, or is it better to move away from the ‘central’ politics, and work for a consultancy to campaign from the outside?

Such was my thought process when leaving the House of Commons to work for Inflect Partners.

While my experiences working for MPs were incredible, in my first month with Inflect I have been reminded of what Parliament and many MPs are missing out on – original and outside the box thinking.

I am by no means accusing one of the oldest Parliaments in the world of unoriginality, rather I found that the tribal environment can stifle effective debate amongst staffers.

Having worked for both Labour and Conservative MPs, I have a particular insight into the workings of staff on the Parliamentary estate. While they differ in outlook on the majority of issues, it is the lack of cordial engagement and a willingness to challenge their own perspectives, which leads to poor discourse and limited originality.

While MPs might engage with the opposition when necessary to move campaigns forward, many staffers will not.

You only have to look to the split along party lines of the drinkers outside of the Red Lion on a Thursday night to see that the Tories stick with the Tories, and Labour stick with Labour.

Having never been a member of a political party this always struck me as odd – you can understand a politician being steadfast on issues, but I think staffers should be able to navigate politics with more fluidity and an ability to entertain alternative opinions. But this is mostly not the case.

A former Parliamentary colleague once described the environment in the Commons to me as a single football stadium in which multiple teams are forced to play, with the staffers being the fans who (if you are a football fan you will likely be able to sympathize) will argue till their last breath that their team is the best. From my personal experience, this always seemed a good analogy.

All this is not to say that working for an MP or for a political party does not have its benefits. Being a Parliamentary staffer is an amazing experience, and is a fantastic place to get a grounding in the impact of policy on constituents, how politics works in practice, and how to campaign.

However, consultancy work offers all of this but can be better suited to many who wish to work in the political sector and influence policy, without having to tie yourself down to a political party.

This was my motivation behind my decision to leave the Commons to work for Inflect. I wanted to engage with all sides of the political divide, pushing for the change that I want to see in the world, while also delivering for clients.

One of the main benefits to working for a consultancy is the freedom to work for a wide variety of clients and get to choose the nature of client that you are looking to work for.

In Parliament, it is the MP’s agenda that you, as a staffer, follow and work on. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it does allow you the chance to work on areas that you would not typically work on. However, I found that occasionally it meant working on areas that you may not agree with.

For example, when I was working in Parliament there was an issue very close to my heart that was hotly debated – the issue of lowering the UK’s international aid contributions from 0.7% of GNI, to 0.5%. I have always believed in the power of the UK’s international aid programmes having witnessed many of them in action while living overseas as a child. At the time that this issue was being debated and subsequently enacted, I was working for an MP that backed the Government position.

This was difficult for me, not being able to work on the side of a debate that I agreed with. However this is what working for consultancies can offer. The ability and freedom to campaign and work on causes that you believe in and want to see grow.

Consultancy work provides the chance to work in the development of interesting policy areas and challenge your own perspectives by engaging with those that you may not agree with, but are well placed to help drive your campaigns forward.

This is why consultancies are so important in the political sector. They act as a bridge between political parties, cutting through the tribalistic rhetoric to the heart of an issue and aiming to unite sides on a shared goal.

The freedom offered by the consultancy world is a very welcome change. I am incredibly pleased to have joined Inflect and excited to see what comes next for the team!

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