Last week I was given the opportunity to visit The Palace of Westminster. Having only developed an interest in politics in the past couple of years, I’d never really considered venturing down to the home of British politics before. I was therefore excited and intrigued when I was invited by SiP on a trip to Westminster. And despite a criminally early start, I left London feeling inspired after an insightful, and, occasionally bizarre, day.
We arrived into London mid-morning and after a meticulous security check, we grouped in the oldest of the Westminster buildings, Westminster Hall. Built in 1100, the Hall was almost 800 years older than the rest of the parliamentary buildings, which I later learnt had burnt down during the Great Fire of 1834. It was here in Westminster Hall that we met our tour-guide who showed us around the various lobbies, chambers and galleries of the Palace.
The beginning of our tour coincided with the opening of the House of Commons. This meant that we were able to watch a strange parliamentary tradition which involved a ceremonial mace being slowly carried into the House of Commons. This ceremony marked one of the only quiet occasions throughout the day.
The feeling of the rooms varied greatly throughout Westminster. Some of the rooms were grand and ornate and at times I felt as though I was walking through Hogwarts. This feeling was only compounded by the eerie paintings of past monarchs and lords that lined the walls. The grandeur of the building was epitomized by the Queens Robing Room, a changing room used by the Queen once a year for the State Opening of Parliament, which was bigger than my 4-bedroom house. Other parts of the building were much more humble and modern.
Following the tour we met our local Labour MP, Paul Blomfield, who had encouraging things to say about the political process. He emphasised the difference that can be made by MPs in Westminster when pushed by constituents or informed by scientists. The meeting was interesting and I left feeling positive about the potential difference I could make in the future.
As the day was coming to a close we headed over to House of Commons to watch a discussion on transport. Our walk was interrupted by the sound of bells ringing throughout the corridors. My doubts about whether this was a fire alarm were quashed when politicians, Harriet Harman among them, began pouring down the corridors. This bell turned out to be the Divison Bell which is rung to call MPs to the chamber to vote.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Westminster and I would recommend the trip to everyone. Not only did it open my eyes to the role of an MP, it also changed my perception of parliament and made me feel closer to the political process. Perhaps most importantly, though, I arrived back home in Sheffield feeling positive about the impact that I could have on policy in the future.