Vincent Torr, is taking part in a placement with Andy Sawford MP, as part of the Speakers Parliament Placement Scheme. The Government Equalities Office has three paid internships as part of the scheme. To mark Parliament week, Vincent guest blogs on what he hopes to achieve from his placement.
Fascinated by politics
I first became interested in politics aged 10, when I watched Tony Blair and John Major during PMQs. It really opened my eyes and made me realise that Parliament was where all the big decisions were being made. I’m equally in awe at the enormous pressure MPs face and how every word they utter is scrutinised and dissected.
I’ve always been interested in the issues that affect everyday people, from welfare reform, equal rights and how Parliament debates these issues. Sometimes it can take a long time to change things for the better. But I’ve always felt that it may take a billion grains of sand to make a brick, and a million bricks to build a community, but without someone adding that first grain, you’re never going to build a community.
Speakers Parliamentary Placement Scheme
I was volunteering in my local MP’s office when I first heard about the scheme and it was with the Shaw Trust Foundation, which specialises in helping disabled people to find work, that I saw the advertisement again. I never thought in a million years I would get through. I think the scheme is a great idea as it allows people to connect with parliament in a way they never would have before.
Having club feet, chronic fatigue two hearing aids means dealing with the issues that my body tries to throw at me is my biggest challenge. For instance, something like going up and down the stairs can be a struggle sometimes. So it’s great that my fellow interns can help me when I need it. I sometimes feel it demeans your status in the eyes of others when you struggle with something like that. I’ve learnt to challenge my own perception on this, it’s a battle I have with myself, my body and the world.
Also, when your body decides it’s going to play “shoot the pain” it can be quite difficult to focus on anything. It can be quite difficult to concentrate when you’ve got thundering pain going through body; it’s like trying to meditate in the middle of a nightclub, with a massive speaker just behind you. I also hope to deal with my deafness too. One missed word in a debate, and suddenly you’ve said something that makes you look like you’ve missed the point.
At the moment it’s like learning to walk in the Olympic Stadium and you’re only used to crawling, but you’re fully aware that you’re in Usain Bolt’s lane and he’s running right towards you.
There are also people’s perceptions. Not everyone is willing to make allowances either. Even those that are willing aren’t always able to do so. It’s a constant battle between willing to help but can’t, and those who can help but aren’t willing.
Hopes for the internship
I’m still a bit of shocked that I’m here. I’ve shook hands and spoke with John Bercow, Hazel Blears and Michael Gove recently and it felt really surreal because I’m used to seeing these people on television, not in my workplace. I was equally struck by their commitment to equality and to helping those who want to succeed.
While I’m here, I really hope I can raise awareness of the issues that disabled people face. The scheme has really taught me that people with my condition can work well in parliament with the right support.
It is great that the Government Equalities Office funds three places on the scheme for three disabled people to experience the cut and thrust of parliament. The MPs and the people I’ve met so far have been fantastic role models, and it’s important for disabled people like myself to have role models they can look up to.
Read Geraint Rennie’s blog on the Speakers Parliamentary Placement Scheme.