Enthralled by the EU debate in Parliament

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THIS week the Footnote is being written by Helena McCormick, who is completing a week’s work experience in my House of Commons office. Helena is 17-years-old and a sixth form student at La Retraite School, London.

I am carrying out this work experience as part of the Social Mobility Foundation’s work experience programme. It aims to provide career-related opportunities to students from economically disadvantaged or non-traditional educational backgrounds. As my ambition is to become a political journalist, I was given the opportunity to shadow Francis Maude for a week.

My first meeting with the busy Minister took place on my first day. I was feeling anxious and nervous, but I was warmly welcomed into the Minister’s private office. The Minister then invited me to sit in on a scheduled Cabinet Office meeting.

I was thrilled to be able to watch an important ministerial discussion. It reminded me that Ministers have to juggle the difficulties of running the Government, with their role as constituency MPs. Though, admittedly, I was a little disappointed by the lack of arguing and raised voices - something which certain political dramas had prepared me for so well.

I was also able to watch the big debate on Europe from the side gallery. It was quite surreal seeing the EU debate in person having read so much about it in the media. It began with the Prime Minister’s statement to the House.

And, two hours later, I remained as enthralled as I was when David Cameron first spoke. The debate itself highlighted the dual function of the House of Commons, as both a representative political chamber and a legislative body. As David Cameron, and his supporters, attempted to defend the Government’s position he faced political attacks from Ed Miliband and Labour backbenchers.

But they also came under fire from Conservative MPs with different views on how legislation should alter the relationship between the British Government and the European Union. However, the debate was not an entirely sombre affair. MPs used humour to colour their arguments, resulting in animated laughter from the public and journalists alike, as well as jeers and cheers from other MPs.

Overall, I have very much enjoyed my Parliamentary work experience. It has made me even more certain of my dream to become a political journalist. I have learnt that the realities of Parliament are often more interesting and less scary than they seem as an outsider.