Corrie has spent the summer interning with newsdirect. Before going back to the University of St Andrews for his final year, he wrote about his experience with us.
Harold Wilson said a week is a long time in politics. Yet my three months at newsdirect have been a whirlwind and I’m not quite sure where all the time has gone. He was right though, no sooner do you find your feet and get your head around a story than it transforms into something else, or is shunted from the agenda by the intrusion of yet another major development. It can be hard to keep up it with it all, but time does fly when you’re having fun.
newsdirect is of course an organisation focused primarily on Holyrood, but much of my work this summer has been in helping to deliver our Westminster coverage. I can’t imagine it’s ever a non-eventful brief, but the backstabbing and power grabbing in the aftermath of the General Election (David Cameron’s EU referendum and Theresa May’s snap election – the two worst political decisions ever made by a British head of government?) have been fascinating. Jeremy Corbyn is a changed man, brimming with fire and confidence. Theresa May? Not so much.
But the story is not over for May or Corbyn. The Labour Leader seems to be rowing back on his previous support for a hard Brexit, but the issue still deeply divides his party. Labour’s path to Number 10 relies on a coalition of the largely pro-Brexit working class and the overwhelmingly pro-Remain urban youth, two wildly disparate groups who make unnatural allies. As for the Prime Minister, the last few years have taught us to expect the unexpected, so the soap opera of the May premiership might have a few more plotlines left to run.
I didn’t spend my whole summer Westminster watching. Reporting on First Minister’s Questions only emphasised the significance of the Scottish Government’s impending relaunch. Nicola Sturgeon is bruised, but not beaten. Assuaging her nationalist base while fending off attacks from both the left and right will prove no mean feat, especially as Ruth Davidson manoeuvres into position for a shot at a – previously unimaginable – Conservative administration in 2021.
But all of this, Westminster and Holyrood, is overshadowed by our impending exit from the EU. Brexit hung over everything we covered this summer like a dark cloud in the distance. For newsdirect, I attended a panel discussion at the University of Glasgow with EU civil servants, MEPs and Scottish Government representatives, and it brought home to me just how monumental and counter-intuitive the whole concept of Brexit. The implications are still emerging and will shape our political life for the indefinite future.
Dwarfed somewhat by the General Election which followed it, the local authority elections – for this wide-eyed intern at least – were fascinating. I spent much of my time in the early summer collating the contact details and policy remits of Scotland’s newly elected local councillors, and it was an insight into our strange little country. (One third of the Western Isles Council, for example, is called either MacKay, MacLean or MacLeod. Weird.) Understanding how Scotland’s councils (and their infuriating, labyrinthine, nightmarish websites) work is a challenge but carries its own rewards, even if they are primarily that my Highland geography is vastly improved.
I leave newsdirect for one final year of university (with a dissertation to write! not panicking!) just as Holyrood and Westminster rumble back into life. But this summer has been so much more than just a taster session, a work experience where the main lesson was how to work a coffee machine (I did learn that, but everyone takes a turn on the coffee run). Working at newsdirect was fascinating, rewarding, challenging and easily worth the 08:00 start.
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