New Lessons from Old Places
The annual visit to Parliament - courtesy of our obliging MP - once again produced revelation and stimulation in equal measure! I found myself corrected on the vexed issue of whether justice is blind - as Malka so rightly pointed out, justice, in England, can see! And I discovered that the 'new' position of Lord Speaker has in fact been held by Lady Hayman all these long months past!
I always enjoy these visits, although the old hankering to be there as an elected representative of the people has waned somewhat over the years. Nevertheless, who wouldn't feel a little jolt of xenophobic pride as we walk past the huge, triumphant pictures of Trafalgar and Waterloo, designed to make any French visitor feel thoroughly welcome. Then there's the joy of walking through the division lobbies and realising there is something to be said for open voting and archaic systems. And there's the 'spot a famous face' game in the Central Lobby, although this year we just got the merest glimpse of an as ever startled looking Ed Milliband - startled because a group of rowdy students all gawped over and said 'That's Ed Milliband'! Which was superfluous, because I think he knew he was Ed Milliband already.
The Q and A with Paul Burstow, too, flowed smoothly and in varied fashion across a range of topics. I always appreciate the fact that he books a committee room for us, adding a little atmosphere to our annual get togethers, and for a man who also endured the SGS Careers Fair, this is constituency MP-ing at its finest. Bear in mind, too, that Mr. Burstow, not sated by student conversation in the morning, later went on to attend a public speaking function in the constituency to hear the likes of Year 10's Ed McDonagh speaking their hearts out. Ed's topic was about tomatoes - fruit or veg? - so possibly not the most demanding political issue to be heard by our MP that day.
I doubt many of the questions caught Mr. Burstow by surprise - with the possible exception of Matt's unashamed lobbying for the youth centre and his Critical Learning critique of the recent Lib Dem questionnaire - but there's no doubt we got some interesting responses. On Des Browne, that his admitting a mistake might be seen to breathe new life into the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, certainly challenged some preconceived notions; early comments on the need for modernising Commons procedures added to our consideration of this issue; and Joe's question about where he sits in the Commons provoked more interest than we might have expected! Actually, while the questioning on constitutional and parliamentary issues is certainly useful, it is a regret of mine that we don't ask a bit more about the 'life of an MP' - i.e. the nuts and bolts of parliamentary representation. Next time, perhaps.