Being a bag-carrier means many things.

It is a calling, and a calling that requires a life of woe and hardship. Yea, for is it not written that wheresoever there is injustice in the land, a Member of Parliament will soon be on the scene brimming with enthusiasm, armed with a press release, a badly-drafted Early Day Motion, a “brilliant scheme,” and an apprehensive but grimly determined member of staff trailing in his wake?

It also is an ancient and noble art. For as long as there has been twenty-four hour news, there have been bag-carriers desperately willing their bosses to stay on message (or at least vaguely in the same postcode as their party’s policy and away from the wide, broad path that leadeth to the libel writ) as they bound eagerly in the direction of a live interview. For as long as there have been postcard campaigns, there have been researchers bent hunched over endlessly churning printers until late into the night. For as long as there have been pagers, computers, and PDAs, there have been staffers on hand to demonstrate how to turn them on and retrieve them from various public lavatories across the Estate.

Yes, bag-carrying is all of these things, and yet it is also so much more: it is a rite of passage. It is where boys become men, and where girls put aside their childish things and become women.

It is, in many ways, not dissimilar to those American high-school dramas that were fashionable in the late nineties, except without the wild parties, hot cheerleaders, and food that looks like something dodgy has been done to it. Well, that’s the refreshment department’s line, and they’re sticking to it.

So here they are, the six stages of bag-carrying:

Stage One: Idealism

You are: Young, keen, and new at your job. Possibly your first foray into the working world after leaving university, you are bright-eyed and give off that indefinably attractive aura of youth.

You believe: That you are here to change things for the better.

Your boss is: An idealist like you, with admirable energy and a seemingly inexhaustible mine of irresistible plans to bring about utopia, each as cunning as they are subtle.

Your friends are: A collection of slightly older bag-carriers you met in the Sports and Social one night. They divide equally into three groups: those are amused by your keenness, those who are irritated by it, and those who want to sleep with you.

You’re listening to: “Reach For The Stars” by S Club 7.

Your celebrity alter-ego is: The one who wore glasses (signifying surety of purpose and intelligence) in the BBC drama Party Animals.

Stage Two: Pragmatism

You are: Well underway with your job and are beginning to learn that there are certain constraints placed upon your ability to bring about a bright new world, such as the letters page in the local paper, the tendency of the whips’ office to view your boss’ schemes with a decidedly fishlike eye at times, and the Question Time audience.

You believe: That certain policy sacrifices need to be made in the pursuit of the common good.

Your boss is: A noble personage at times bound by the strictures of representative democracy and the editorial in the Backbenchshire Gazette.

Your friends are: Full of wisdom you don’t fully understand which often contains phrases such as, “get out now whilst you have your health.”

You’re listening to: “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera.

Your celebrity alter-ego is: Erin Brockovich.

Stage Three: Acceptance

You are: Comfortable in your role as support staff to a busy member of Parliament.

You believe: That maybe your dreams of changing the world, eliminating world poverty, and bringing about a New Jerusalem before the pubs opened might have been a little ambitious. And you’re good with that.

Your boss is: In the constituency. Hopefully.

Your friends are: Complaining that it’s a sitting Friday and their bosses may well be about.

You’re listening to: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.

Your celebrity alter-ego is: Any of Francis Urquhart’s victims in House of Cards.

Stage Four: Desperation

You are: The fastest envelope-stuffer in the West(minster village).

You believe: That if God put you on this earth to spend hours un-jamming the photocopier, He could have at least warned you in advance that those tuition fees were going to be a waste of money.

Your boss is: Engaging with the public over the issues that concern them most. Which is great. But why does it have to generate so many fourteen hour days, weekends spent in the office ploughing through the casework, and the same level of “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO US!” style abuse at the end of it?

Your friends are: Over forty and with no idea what they want to do after they leave Parliament.

You’re listening to: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics.

Your celebrity alter-ego is: Gary from Team America prior to the “Montage Song.”

Stage Five: Lethargy

You are: Devising games to make the seemingly insurmountable pile of casework “fun,” failing miserably, and taking so many cigarette breaks that you are setting off the smoke alarms in Portcullis House every time you waft past.

You believe: You ain’t getting no “Montage Song.”

Your boss is: Ignoring the briefing you’ve provided him or her with, and winging it abysmally in the Chamber. Face? Bovvered?

Your friends are: Largely immobile.

You’re listening to: “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day.

Your celebrity alter-ego is: Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons.

Stage Six: Functioning alcoholism

You are: Four stone heavier than when you started, thanks to a several years undertaking the “Parliament Challenge” – where three lard-heavy meals are consumed in the course of one day – on a five-day-a-week basis. Also, you are not entirely sure what you did last night.

You believe: That the sooner you jump ship into some cushy political PR number where you can rake an a huge salary at the end of each month for nothing more than wining and dining attractive researchers on your expense account, and spending the evening trying to flog the wares of Evil Corporation Inc. to junior ministers over champagne on the Terrace, the better.

Your boss is: Rearranging the deckchairs on the doomed hull of your once bright dreams as you mentally scream, “ICEBERG!”

Your friends are: A collection of miscreants who only buy the New Statesman and the Spectator to make roaches for their cigarettes, and whose idea of a good night out is drunkenly perving over the interns in the Sports and Social.

You’re listening to: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” The Marilyn Manson version.

Your celebrity alter-ego is: Al Pacino at the end of Scarface.

Elton John is working on the musical score to this one as we speak.

Dean Trench

Added on 14th November 2008