Five minutes with... Richard Wiltshire
BA International Studies Alumni 1993-1997
Richard Wiltshire studied BA International Studies from 1993 to 1997. He currently works for the Mayor of London's office in the Government and Parliamentary Relations Team.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I'm 32 years old, born in Dartford and currently residing in Brixton.
What made you decide to do study International Studies?
BA International Studies offered so much. It allowed me to study international history, politics and international relations. It was a very stimulating course in itself but made even more so by the exciting political events of the period. Internationally, the cold war had just ended and, domestically, the Major government was imploding. There was a real immediacy to what we were studying. It was great.
How do you think your degree has helped you with your current career?
When you apply for a politics-based job, an employer wants you to prove your interest in the subject. Having a politics based degree is one way to show that. Being able to show that I played active part in student politics also made sure that this box was firmly ticked in any interview I went to.
Why did you choose to study at POLIS?
I didn't know that Dorne Greensmith would be looking after us for our time at Leeds when I applied to study at the Department but, if I had have done, she would be the reason.
Did you have a favourite lecturer?
Dr Hartley, he was fantastic. So knowledgeable and funny. Our seminars with him were always stimulating and enjoyable. There was a persistent rumour among students that he had worked for MI5, which added to the myth of the man.
Did you study abroad? If so, can you tell us a bit about your experiences?
I did a year in Pau, France. Three of us from the course wangled some EU money to spend a year by the Pyrenees. I recall drinking a lot of red wine and skiing, often - though not always - at the same time.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Leeds?
I loved so much about it. The city itself was great, the course, my fellow students – a lot of whom I still see now. It was fantastic to have so many opportunities.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am currently doing a one year intensive Tai Chi course, which means two hours practice a day and a lot of coursework. I started Tai Chi during my final year at Leeds at the university sports centre and have been doing it ever since. It brings me emotional, physical, and mental balance which is very necessary when living and working in London.
What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you whilst being a student?
The International Studies Society trip to Amsterdam in my second year contained a lot of "funny" moments that are still recounted around the pub table to this day. Few, however, are suitable for publication.
You are currently working in the Mayor of London's office in the Government and Parliamentary Relations team. Can you tell us about your day-to-day role?
The Government and Parliamentary Relations team is responsible for ensuring that the Mayor's engagement with Government and Parliament is coordinated and effective. My current role includes ensuring the Mayor is briefed for ministerial meetings, advising on engagement with Parliamentary legislation, keeping colleagues informed of government announcements and looking for opportunities to influence.
What are your plans for the future?
I am definitely staying in the Mayor's office until the May 2008 election as I am very keen to see such an election from the inside. I also think it will be quite high profile and a lot of fun with Boris Johnson involved. After that, who knows?
Is there anything you would have changed about your time at POLIS?
If you're thinking about a future political career, I would recommend doing an internship either in your penultimate year or immediately after you finish your course. Entry into a politics-based jobs are very competitive and having the experience of an internship will you a big edge and open a lot of doors. My year in France was fun, but doing an internship instead would have saved me a lot of bother later on.