Interviews – Wesley Ball

Working in a political organisation

Wesley Ball, 22, works for Britain in Europe, a cross-party coalition that exists to promote the European Union, the single currency and Britain’s part in European affairs. It also co-operates with Trade Unions in the voluntary sector. Members include Tony Blair, Robin Cook, Charles Kennedy and Michael Heseltine

What is your role in the organisation?
I am the Registered Supporters and London Weekend Organiser. My job is to recruit supporters for the campaign and to serve them with their information needs. I also co-ordinate and facilitate the London in Europe group campaigns, and organise events such as drinks receptions, press conferences and lectures.

How did you get the job?
I did an internship over the summer of my second year at university and at the end of it because of the growing nature of the organisation I was asked to join full time once I graduated. I initially got the internship by sending off lots of CVs to everyone I knew in Parliament and out of the few I was offered I decided to take the job here. I’ve now worked here five months, three of which I’ve been paid full time. I originally intended to go back to university to do postgraduate studies and I suppose the other route I could have taken is researching for an MP, but I prefer to be in a more actively political organisation.

How many staff does the organisation have?
About 25 people are based in London and about 10 other members of staff are dotted around the country. Most of those staff are aged under 40 which gives the entire organisation a dynamic air.

How old is the organisation?
Britain in Europe is only 15-16 months old and I am the first graduate they have taken on directly from university. However, there should be more roles for graduates in the future as the organisation is continually expanding in preparation for a referendum or big political campaign and will be looking for people fresh out of university.

What sort of training and support have you been given?
It was really a case of finding out as much as I could by myself, especially in terms of people skills, how to co-ordinate campaigns and how to recruit supporters. I was given practical technical training in computer programs and so on, but in general it was a case of training myself in collaboration with other members of the team. I prefer this to other graduate schemes I have seen, because even though it is hard work here, I don’t feel part of a machine. However, there are no clear hierarchies or organisational blocks and labels are always useful.

How many hours do you work?
About 40-45 a week, but it varies because I am frequently out of the office and sometimes I am away for a night co-ordinating the London group, or launching another regional group, like the other day when I went to Manchester to launch the North West group.

What would an average day involve?
There isn’t really an average day, but if I am in London I might get in at about 8.30am to check my e-mails. I get a lot of information requests about the organisation generally so I send that out which normally takes a couple of hours. I might then move on to whatever is my big project at the time. At the moment I am trying to start up a Britain in Europe newsletter, but I’ve discovered that it’s massively more complicated than I realised! Then I’ll go on to look at what the regional groups are doing by talking to members. I might be involved in a few meetings, but it varies widely.

What has been the achievement you’ve been most proud of?
I’m most proud of recruiting members through being involved in political events, such as having stands at party conferences. This involves preparing all the literature beforehand, talking to people at the events, but most importantly hosting a good event. I also have to deal with the follow-up to these events, making sure that we convert a good impression into lasting membership of our organisation.

What sort of characteristics would someone need for your role?
I think you definitely need a creative turn of mind in order to be able to think laterally so you can side-step problems. You must also be persistent because it can be frustrating trying to organise a meeting where everybody has such full diaries. You have to be methodical because people can become offended if you don’t proceed through the proper channels.

The organisation has a finite lifespan, so where does your career go from here?
That’s right, the organisation will only exist until the possible referendum in two years or so time. To be honest, my future career is not something I have thought about because I didn’t intend to come here in the first place, but I’m sure my future will be in politics.

What skills do you think you have learnt that will help you in the future?
It’s difficult to say because you don’t get certificates like, say, accountants get to prove they are at a certain level. You do learn what it means to be professional, methodical and not to be slapdash. You also learn about marketing and about what people do and don’t respond to in terms of arguments and advertisements.

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