Thursday, 6 December 2012

Westminster: Behind closed doors…

No, I’m not singing Peter Andre  (cringe I know that). I am merely referring to my time in Portcullis House. The general public can take tours of the House of Lords and the House of Commons when visiting Parliament but only special people can access the building where MP’s are based. So, I was privileged and honoured that St. Albans MP Anne Main invited me for two days work experience to get a feel of how British politics works and see if I still wanted to report the subject in the future.

Firstly, it wasn’t what I expected and I think quite a lot of people would be shocked.  That begs the question what exactly did I expect and I’m actually not sure but I just didn’t think it would be so busy. Most people are of the view that MP’s sit around and do nothing. While this may be true for some, the majority are very busy, rushing about from meeting to meeting. The most hectic part is when the bell goes off and the MP’s have eight minutes to get over to the House of Commons in order to vote.

Then, there’s Portcullis House itself. Inside, it’s actually quite modern and the glass roof and doors sort of give a James Bond MI6 feel. The offices are hidden behind wooden panels, which make the corridors look identical. It’s a bit like a maze. And to be fair, I was amazed how accessible the place was. Even the listed buildings had lifts in, albeit the old-fashioned ones but at least they had them.

On Monday, my day started by attending a conference between Bangladeshi leaders ahead of next years election. Anne was chairing the seminar with Lord Avebury so wanted me to watch and then write a report for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh as well as the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh. Although I was sleepy (hate getting up at 7 when you’re a student) and confused at times, it was very interesting as I learnt a lot about a country I knew nothing about.

After lunch, Anne was scheduled to meet members of the St. Albans Youth Council to discuss the issue of mental health. After reading the report they had compiled, I listened to the discussion and even found myself getting involved (it’s a subject that is close to my heart). Maybe it was a bit unprofessional to start giving my opinion on the matter but it helped me to get a rounded picture rather than an outsider just looking in.

I didn’t see much of Anne on Tuesday because she was busy meeting with constituents and there were a couple of votes in the Commons. Plus, I was quite busy having a tour of Westminster (I recommend it), writing up my articles and meeting Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson. It was great to meet one of my heroes and I am grateful she took the time to see me.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time and like to give a massive thank you to Anne Main for inviting me. Also, thanks to her team (that might not be the right term) who made me feel so welcome and put in a tremendous amount of work behind the scene.

Bye for now!

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