I’ve long wanted to go to parliament. I didn’t realise that they did tours. I knew that you could go watch proceedings from the public gallery, though I was under the assumption that you needed an invite from your MP.
Luckily my sister took a “risk” and booked a tour for my Christmas present. Quite how the heck that qualifies as a risky present I do not know – it’s a dream present.
It took a while to find a Saturday when we were both free but the preceding Saturday was it. The big day. I was rather excited beforehand.
We went through security – apparently you are not allowed knives or pepper spray – yes someone had tried to take pepper spray in that morning. The police were everywhere – those on the front gate had powerful looking machine guns.
The tour started in Westminster Abbey – a grand hall originally built not far off 1,000 years ago, and the oldest section of parliament.
We then traversed through a corridor – a very wide corridor with a collection of marbles of great historical figures such as Somers and Walpole.
This was the last place that we were allowed to photograph.
Parliament itself has around 1,000 rooms and we probably saw 10, but pretty much the most important 10. The building and the tour is split into three sections – the royal section, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The royal section in particular had many paintings of famous Queens and Kings, and also a selection of ‘frescos’ (those of you more culturally aware in terms of art may know what that means – I don’t), many of which disappointed Queen Victoria due to their poor quality – and the colours indeed have faded and have been damaged by pollution.
This section included the Queen’s entrance and her robing room.
Next up was the House of Lords, which accordingly to an earlier tour guest was “blingy innit”. Indeed it was so with the well-known deep red leather seating and lashings of gold – too much for the liking of Queen Victoria.
Before we got to my particular highlight, there was chance to go through the connecting area that you often see journalists interviewing politicians, which has statues of great historical prime ministers such as Thatcher and Churchill, along with busts of other important prime ministers – the most recent being John Major.
Gordon Brown will not even get a bust (unelected) – Tony Blair might eventually get a statue though that is clearly quite controversial. On average the decision takes 12 years from the particular prime minister stepping down.
Then we went onto the highlight – though first through the voting corridor. And then into the House of Commons. It felt slightly surreal being where my heroes and slugs debate, thankfully I got to stand on the government side – I think near where Jacob Rees-Mogg is often seen slouching.
It was a fantastic moment being there.
We than gradually made our way back to hall where we entered.
Our tour guide was excellent, camply passionate about history and royalty, able to answer all the questions fired at him. The tour itself was approaching 2 hours long. It was the highlight of my year so far.
I’m pleased that I decided against becoming the British Lee Harvey-Oswald when I was angry and appalled at the way that Gordon Brown was destroying the country. It is taking some time to recover from his disastrous management of the economy and will likely be felt for the next two decades.
On the way back we went to the Red Lion pub – one of the local pubs that have voting bells so MPs know they have 8 minutes to dash back and register their vote. It was near the Downing Street protest.
I did of course shout “Tory And Proud” and “Get A Job” to a few people walking past with Socialist Worker banners. An interesting collection of people – 10% were part of the great unwashed, a good chunk were the usual socialist/communist anti-Tories, and the largest portion seemed to be there to get drunk, hoping to see a bit of trouble or themselves on TV before heading back to watch the boxing. The pub strangely became much busier when it started spitting with rain.
And then we went for some Yorkshire puddings. But that is another story…for another blog.
Next up – James goes to Romania.