I was recently returning to the House of Lords when I bumped into a Hull politics graduate outside the Palace of Westminster. We stood chatting for some time. The pavement was rather crowded and, as we talked, I saw among the crowd a member of the Cabinet trying to hail a taxi. I could not help reflecting how typically British this was.
It reminded me of the occasion a few years ago when I was showing two Americans round the Palace of Westminster. We were at the top of Westminster Hall when a (then) Law Lord walked past. As it was a Law Lord I knew well, he stopped to chat. As he left, I thought I should explain to my visitors who he was. I pointed out that he was the equivalent of a member of the US Supreme Court. Instead of looking impressed, they looked horrified. ‘But where’s his security?’ they asked. I explained that he didn’t have any and that he was probably on the way to the tube or to catch a taxi. They were aghast.
Good job they weren’t with me some weeks ago when I was leaving the Lords late one night. I bumped into Sir George Young, Leader of the House of Commons, stood at the bus stop in Millbank. ‘Is this the result of the Government’s austerity measures?’ I asked. ‘Oh no’, he said. ‘My bicycle has a puncture.’