As I anticipated, I left the Palace of Westminster last night having spent over thirty hours in the building. I not only did not get out of the building at any stage, I didn’t even get as far as Portcullis House within the Palace. The length of my time in the Palace was exceptional, but not the fact that I did not get out. Today, I had to pop across the road to do an interview for Sky News (see the previous post): it was only when I got out that I realised it was sunny.
I am conscious that I see less of London now than before I entered Parliament. The Palace of Westminster is sometimes referred to as ‘the Westminster village’. It is more than that. About 7,000 to 10,000 people work each day on the parliamentary estate. There are two to three miles of corridors and more than 200 staircases. There are various connected buildings. The Palace itself is a maze and links to Portcullis House and through that to 1 Parliament Street and the Norman Shaw Buildings. The nature of parliamentary business means that MPs and peers are wary of straying too far from the precincts. Any organisation arranging a meeting and wanting to attract the attendance of parliamentarians needs to organise it within the Palace. Even if it is organised nearby, just a few hundred yards away, the turnout will not be as good as if it were held in the Palace.
Westminster is akin to a bustling town rather than a small, or sleepy, village. Parliamentarians are kept busy. The reasons for this are arguably beneficial, but it has a potential downside in that we are rather cocooned and are not always aware of the wider environment.
Then again, it could just be me.