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My Public Affairs Internship

My Public Affairs Internship

By Michael Lach

My internship at The PHA Group started in October 2016, after recently completing my degree in International Relations and Politics from the University of East Anglia. I had always been interested in Politics as well as PR, and when I stumbled upon an online invite one day asking me to attend a ‘PHA Open Day for aspiring PR professionals’ I leapt at the opportunity.

The day encompassed of myself and a few dozen others coming to PHA to learn about all the teams and the work that they do. After hearing from Emily, who did an introduction to the Public Affairs team, I knew that this was definitely something I would be interested in pursuing.

michael lach

Fast forward to February and I’ve now been at PHA in the Public Affairs team for a little over 4 months. During this time I’ve worked on some truly big issues, from helping to safeguard the future of British Film, to helping millions of British overseas citizens. Plus, one of the best things about doing work experience with the PHA Public Affairs team is that unlike in other intern roles where basically your biggest responsibility is in charge of making tea or photocopying, at PHA you are truly part of the team and have responsibilities that matter.

In my first week, I was asked to help set up meetings between our clients and MP’s. It felt great that the company trusted me enough to give me such an important responsibility, which ultimately was crucial to our clients’ interests. My responsibilities have also included preparing briefs and reports for the team and our clients, as well as client events and attending high-profile meetings in Parliament with our clients and some of the UK’s top politicians.

Another thing I have enjoyed is that no day is ever the same! When you come into work in the morning, you could be working on a new client that’s just signed up, meeting with a client, or attending events!

The Weird and Wonderful World of Political Christmas Cards

By Peter Jackson Eastwood & Emily Burditt.

It’s the festive season, so what better way to celebrate than to forensically examine just how appalling Politicians Christmas Cards are? Welcome to the strange and wonderful world of political Christmas cards…

Nigel Evans MP – Christmas 2016

Nigel Evans MP Christmas card

Come along now Mr Evans, you’re not even Trump’s favourite Nigel!

Everyone knows that Farage and Trumpy are already best mates, so maybe we can find Nigel Evans his own American friend – Mike Pence or Mitt Romney maybe? They seem like interesting chaps, and Ted Cruz could always use a chum as well…

Bonus point for the mug.

MP Christmas card

Nigel Evans MP’s Christmas Card

 

Stephen Harper (Former PM Canada) – Christmas 2010

‘Season’s greetings from our whole serial killing family’ is probably not what the inside of this card says, but it should do.

Is there anything worse than one of these god-awful ‘happy family’ pictures? Everyone looks on edge. Pity the Harper children who were likely slaughtered in the playground for this one. Thankfully Canada is now blessed with the charismatic Justin Trudeau, a man so good at PR-ing himself that his wide-eyed tribute to the late, great, murderous Fidel Castro spawned an entire hashtag – #TrudeauEulogies

Fear not residents of Great Britain, the rest of the world’s politicians are equally inept.

Stephen Harper Christmas Card

Stephen Harper’s Christmas Card

 

Peter Bone MP – Christmas 2015

Given Peter Bone’s record in the House of Commons, I think we are all immensely grateful that his Christmas card does not feature Mrs Bone in some kind of compromised state. Small mercies.

Bone’s expression epitomises how the whole country is now feeling over all this EU hullabaloo. Are we leaving? Are we staying? Are we staying in the single market? Are we retaining Freedom of movement? Are the courts in charge? Is parliament? Are you sure Michael Gove isn’t a lizard-human hybrid?

Don’t worry Peter, we all feel exactly as you look.

Peter Bone Christmas Card

Jeremy Corbyn – Christmas 2016

This looks not dissimilar to the Dove logo, just with a red background instead of white. For that reason, let’s call this ‘Communist Dove’. And given the cracked, flaky nature of Corbyn’s reign, he probably needs some political moisturiser to make his party a slicker machine.

So many beautiful political symmetries can be drawn from this shockingly bad Christmas card and last year’s equally atrocious offering. Jeremy Corbyn has had an entire year to improve his Christmas card, but it has only gotten worse. Jeremy Corbyn has also had an entire year to improve his leadership of the Labour Party. Fill in the rest yourself.

Tony Blair, Christmas 2014

Things Tony Blair could be thinking in this photo:

‘The Chilcott report is coming out soon’

‘Ah, I left the oven on.’

‘I’d better empty my Outbox in case Cherie sees that George and I are still talking.’

‘I forgot to put X Factor on to record’

‘Good God Ed Balls can move!’

Tony Blair Christmas Card

Tony Blair’s Christmas Card

Alex Salmond MSP – Christmas 2013

Alex Salmond doesn’t really make sense to me as a human being, so it figures that I haven’t the faintest clue what this is all about.

Perhaps it’s a young Salmond in his job at the Post Office, championing independence William Wallace style in his free time.

Apparently it’s actually a picture of the fourth wise man who turned up too late to see Jesus.

About as festive and cheery as Mr Salmond’s popular demeanour.

Nick Brown MP – Christmas 2015

Nick Brown has cracked it – George Osborne is a Sith Lord. Not only do we at PHA Public Affairs fully endorse Star Wars references, we endorse them especially enthusiastically in relation to our esteemed politicians.

As for what that means in relation to this card – George Osborne is surely Kylo Ren – young, widely disliked, following a path that is a mystery to everyone but himself and probably capable of betraying those closest to him with a lightsabre/austerity cut to the heart. And come to think of it, Maggie would make a passable Emperor Palpatine here… (We love you Maggie!)

Godfrey Bloom (former UKIP MEP)

Most MEPs would be desperate to distance themselves from comments that were so controversial, he lost the UKIP whip.

But Godfrey Bloom isn’t most MEPs; he is a UKIPper. Honestly, I’ve no idea whether this did Godfrey Bloom a tonne of damage with his voters, or a tonne of favours. Who knows what anything means anymore.

godfrey bloom christmas card

 

Home Affairs Select Committee 2015

Masterful. Not a single word of criticism for this, a delight.

Home Affairs Select Committee 2013

The Home Affairs Select Committee clearly win the award for best cards.

Keith Vaz as Dumbledore. Theresa May as Bellatrix Lestrange. Julian Huppert as Harry Potter.

No more needs to be said.

Home Affairs Select Committee Christmas Card

Home Affairs Select Committee Christmas Card

Brits on the fence: what will clinch the Brexit referendum?

By Arvin Khanchandani

 

David Cameron Brexit Speech Referendum

Image courtesy of Brett Jordan, flicker.com

 

Just two months ago, in September, 55% of the public wanted Britain to stay in the European Union, according to a poll conducted by ORB for the Independent. However, last week, the poll figures indicated that the tides are turning: currently, 52% of Brits are in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. This is the first time the ORB’s survey has shown a majority for ‘Brexit’.

The momentum is clearly with the two ‘out’ campaigns – Leave.EU and Vote Leave – which have started merger negotiations to establish a single, robust campaign championing ‘Brexit’. In contrast, the dominant ‘in’ campaign – Britain Stronger in Europe – has been comparatively underfunded and criticised for focusing on the negative consequences of a potential ‘Brexit’, rather than highlighting the benefits the UK enjoys from its EU membership.

So, with ‘Brexit’ increasingly becoming a tangible reality, what will determine the outcome of the referendum?

Which model?

The main challenge for the ‘out’ campaigns is to convince the public that, in the event of ‘Brexit’, the UK will still have the access to the EU single market, while enjoying greater control over socio-political issues important to Brits, such as immigration and border control. However, these two goals are contradictory in nature as the single market encompasses all ‘four freedoms’ of goods, people, services and capital. In this context, it will be crucial for the ‘out’ campaign to present a coherent message about what relationship they envisage Britain having with the EU if it decides to leave.

A possible option would be to follow European Economic Area (EEA) members – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – who remain outside the EU but participate in the EU internal market. This, however, comes at a price as they are required to adopt all EU legislation without having a say in shaping it.

British Eurosceptics largely seem to prefer the Swiss ‘à la carte’ model which is based on a series of bilateral agreements with the EU. This means that Switzerland has access to only selected parts of the single market and it is only in those areas that it must adopt the pertinent EU acquis. However, the EU is growing increasingly frustrated with this model. According to the Council report, it ‘is creating legal uncertainty and has become unwieldy to manage and has clearly reached its limits’. Against this backdrop, the EU might be unwilling to allow another country to follow Switzerland’s suit.

However, while Switzerland is able to negotiate free trade accords with other countries independently of the EU, it still has to subscribe to the EU freedom of movement. This has left Switzerland facing what many see as similar problems to the UK; due to high levels of immigration and limited space, many areas are lacking critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools and housing. The Swiss actually voted in favour of introducing quotas for all migrants in Switzerland in a referendum in February last year. However, such quotas would violate the terms of the Swiss free movement of people treaty with the EU. It is questionable whether Switzerland will be able to execute the will of its people and whether Britain would have more bargaining power if it found itself in a similar position.

The demographic war

Battle lines will also be drawn between the ‘in’ and ‘out’ campaigns when it comes to demographics. The latest ORB survey indicates that only 31% of 18-24 year-olds favour ‘Brexit’, yet the figure increases twofold in the 65+ age group, soaring to 62%. Therefore, if the ‘in’ campaign manages to coax the youth to the ballots, the result of the referendum should favour the ‘inners’. The importance of this to the ‘in’ campaign can be seen by how hard the Lords are fighting to extend the franchise to 16 year olds for the referendum.

Euro crises

External developments may also sway swing voters one way or the other in the ‘Brexit’ referendum. Currently, the EU is facing pressures on many fronts: the poor handling of the Greek crisis, the sluggish growth rate of its economy, its impotence in the face of the refugee crisis and its inability to contain the immediate terrorist threat, to name but a few. Should the EU find effective solutions to these multi-faceted challenges, the European integration project will regain its credibility and once again appear attractive in the eyes of Britons.

On the other hand, if it fails to deal with these problems, or if they are further exacerbated (for instance, by Greece leaving the Eurozone or by more terrorist attacks in European cities), the EU’s appeal will quickly diminish to the point that ‘Brexit’ becomes inevitable.

Conclusion

In light of the EU’s lacklustre performance in many areas crucial to the well-being of its peoples, ‘Brexit’ has ceased to be a mere political fantasy. While there are many factors to consider when predicting whether Britain will stay in or opt out of the EU, it seems most likely that the ‘status quo bias’ will ultimately decide Britain’s future. This does not mean that all is lost for the ‘Out’ Campaign – if they can consistently overshadow the ‘in’ campaign, or if the EU’s credibility is further undermined by the timing of the referendum, the public may be less opposed to change.