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A Tumultuous Summer of Political Upheaval: My internship at newsdirect

Euan Ryan

Fresh out of University, with a relatively irrelevant degree and an unhealthy appetite for politics, I was lucky enough to be snapped up by newsdirect to become one of its Parliamentary Reporter Interns. My four-month stint, that comes to an end this Friday, coincided with the UK’s vote to leave the European Union; a Prime Minister’s resignation; a cabinet reshuffle (also known as the decimation of a PM’s legacy); four leadership contests (or three, given the questionable accuracy to which Labour’s could be described as a “contest”); one depute leadership contest; a crumbling opposition; mutterings of a second independence referendum; and a general WTFIGO in Scottish, British and Global politics. It also coincided with the rise of a demagogue across the pond but thankfully, for the blood pressures of our wonderfully metropolitan and liberal team, newsdirect doesn’t cover American politics. That being said, our newest addition, Katie Armour, recently fought the good fight over in Colorado. Make sure to read about her experiences here.

So who knows what’s going on? In the grand scheme of things, I’d have to assume that no-one does. We’re witnessing a complete realignment of political orthodoxy as control swiftly passes from the benevolent and progressive “establishment” to unpredictable and populist revolutionaries. But amongst this shift and uncertainty, no-one quite understands the ins and outs of Scotland like newsdirect. With a finger on the pulse of Scottish governance, from the who’s who and what’s what of the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee to the people of influence within the First Minister’s Cabinet, newsdirect knows not only what is happening with regards to future legislation and party political posturing but what will happen, what has happened and what almost definitely won’t happen. This is down to the ruthlessly efficient monitoring team and its barrage of e-mails, updates and press releases that are sent around internally before 11 o’clock each and every morning.

It is within this context that I truly experienced the broad scope of newsdirect’s various exploits and of politics in general. At 06:00am on Friday 24th June, I stumbled into the office bleary eyed, having woken up every hour, on the hour of the previous evening in order to track the increasingly pessimistic trajectory of the EU referendum results. Alongside Deputy Director, Carla Sloan, we summarised swathes of information, commentary and developments in order to keep our clients and the public up to date with the morning’s developments that would shape the next century of British life and put the very existence of the European Union in jeopardy. At 9:00am on Wednesday 21st September, I summarised a full Committee discussion on the introduction of an additional ear tag for Scottish cattle. Politics is thrilling, challenging, boring, straight-forward, satisfying, frustrating, revolutionary and stagnant all at the same time, and newsdirect put me at the heart of this omnipresent contradiction for four months.

So, it’s on to pastures new for me, but this role has given me both a broad understanding of how politics works beyond the public eye, and a cautious optimism for the world in general. Anyone left disillusioned by division and posturing should be asked to summarise the workings of the Local Government and Communities Committee. The people we elect aren’t there to make us feel good or publish satisfyingly brutal press releases, but to drive forward incremental improvements to legislation and solve problems within the everyday life of their constituents. So amongst the turmoil, I would say: Don’t Panic. That is, unless Donald Trump gets elected.

Other lessons learned, include:

  • A politician’s job goes beyond that of effective media management. Johann Lamont may not work the press like Ruth Davidson, but she is ruthless in Committee.
  • Tavish Scott, frustratingly quiet on a national level, has a thundering vocal presence.
  • Some politicians speak far too quickly. We’re trying to summarise your contribution here, cut us some slack.
  • Other politicians lodge an obscene amount of Questions and Motions and every single one needs to be copied, checked and reformatted. I’m looking at you, Oliver Mundell. We understand that you’re doing your job as an opposition MSP, but did you need to lodge 43 written questions in one day?
  • Gail Ross does not like Edward Mountain. And they run a Committee together, so watch this space…
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