Way out Westminster, June 2014
A lovely June day, two good drivers and a smooth journey took a coach-load of members and guests to hot and sunny Westminster whilst Duncan, cool as ever, held this page open until our return.
Lots of hard work led up to the day, but comments suggest that it was worth it: "we found the whole experience absolutely amazing", “I have learned so much”, “best day out for years”, “this place is beautiful”, “even the security bit was interesting”.
What did we do? The main event was a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. In two groups we were led by people who actually work there and know the place inside-out. Surrounded by statues and portraits of more kings, queens and Prime Ministers than most of us knew had existed, we walked where the Queen walks, talked where the Lords talk. We couldn’t get onto the floor of the House of Commons as they were in session, so we sat in the Public Gallery and listened to MPs debating some complicated Welsh matters.
Standing in the voting lobby we discovered why the archaic head-counting voting system from times past is still employed, and in the central lobby we saw MPs sitting talking to constituents who had requested a meeting. We can all do that, and the MP cannot say no. Perhaps that is partly why many of us were able to spend an hour with our local MP, Brandon Lewis, in Portcullis House – the modern building (grand in its own way) where many MPs have their offices and where the famous committee rooms are to be found. We sat in one whilst Brandon told us more about the working life of an MP and Minister and answered a range of questions on local and national issues. Party politics aside, he came over as a fundamentally nice bloke who would have given us his time even if he didn’t have to. He's the man with a tie below, with Portcullis House in the background.
Then we broke up and hit daytime London, all going our own ways. A quick, and by no means complete list, of where people went: the London Eye, the Tower, the Shard (right to the top), Churchill’s War Room, a Thames cruise, Covent Garden (by foot, 2 miles each way!), Changing of the Guard, Horse Guards Parade. One of us went to tea on the Lords’ Terrace with a Lady she happens to know! A small group ended a busy day sitting in the cool peace of Westminster Abbey listening the Abbey choir sing Evensong.
Well, there you go! Worth all the effort, with a lot of help from Brandon Lewis’s hard-worked staff, so why not think about it yourself? One thing we learned from a school group we met – life would have been much easier if we had all worn yellow baseball caps!