If there wasn’t so much shouting in Westminster a lot more would get done. Those are my words of wisdom following what I saw yesterday as me and Winnie headed to Parliament as part of our time at the Daily Mirror.
Sitting in at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday I finally understood why a lot of the public think politics is a group testosterone-fuelled men, heckling and grunting to try and ridicule each other, and not something they should waste their precious time with. It’s a shame, because if you manage to shut out the din the whole process if frankly fascinating.
Walking into the press gallery as PMQs began yesterday I felt like a gladiator walking into a packed amphitheatre. As I stepped into the stairwell a wall of noise erupted all around me. I was surrounded by heckling, jeering and grunting so loud that for a moment I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn and stumbled into a football match.
The noise is really quite incredible. So is the notion of standing up, which sees MPs bobbing up and down like puffed up meerkats every time the PM finishes whatever point (if you can hear above the din) he is trying to respond to. First time journalists in the Commons must stand out like a sore thumb – I must have swallowed ten flies gawping in amazement at the spectacle going on below me.
Of course I knew it would be like this. We’ve all seen the rabble on the tv, the constant battle between the Reds and the Blues, the face off between Cameron and Miliband. But it is so much better when you are actually there. Of course it would be frowned on to join in (I wouldn’t advise it), but it rather feels like your at Wimbledon waiting for someone to tell you to shush as play resumes, until then it’s pretty much a free for all.
But despite all this rabble going on, a lot seemed to actually get done. Ok, there were a lot of snipes and harmless nips at each other from the opposing parties (some of which were rather amusing), but once you tuned out all of that some very important points were being made.
I heard MPs ask for harsher legislation for dangerous drivers, security for victims of terrorism charities, food banks, the secret letters and, most importantly, a lot of chat about our love of curling!
Earlier that morning I met one of the Daily Mirror political reporters and headed to a monthly press conference with Deputy PM Nick Clegg, who surprisingly enough still looks fairly sane and alive despite his time in Government. The system was fascinating. Questions were thrown at him left, right and centre, by the room of reporters and I left feeling like I’d just witnessed an amazing magic show, which I could go back and watch time and time again.
As I left parliament last night, I couldn’t help but think that a year ago I wouldn’t have managed to sit through all this. Something would have happened; a shadow across my eyeballs, blacking out, diarrhoea, vomiting or even dizziness. Whatever it was, something would have stopped me experiencing this. Ok, so I’m not feeling 100% at the moment, and I’ve been feeling worse every day, but right now I’m grateful my body is just giving me enough energy to get to work and experience this amazing job and see these incredible parts of society that most people never get the chance to.
The whole day was an incredible experience. I was amazed by the number of women in the lobby (Yes, there were only a handful, but that was more than I expected) I was lucky to have the guidance of James Lyons (Daily Mirror’s deputy political editor) and Tom McTague (political correspondent) who helped me coordinate my wave through the maze that is the corridors of power and settle into the hectic male dominated press corridor with ease.
And as if the fast paced day wasn’t invigorating enough, I was lucky enough to be visiting on the same day that the Chairman if the Press Gallery handed over his reign. This meant all the political correspondents gathering together in a ‘pack’ for drinks and salty snacks (I said no to a drink and I may as well have shot someone! But was forgiven when I said I had upcoming surgery) before listening to humorous speeches in a style reminiscent of those a best man would give to humiliate his mate at a wedding.
It was fascinating, and a great work environment. I have never seen so many reporters from different national papers and broadcasters together in one room – and all getting along. I loved the atmosphere, the attitude and the passion they all showed for their jobs. Everyone in that room, be it hardened hack, well known political correspondent from the telly or little me, truly wanted to be there and (seemed) to love, live and breathe their job.
They all seemed to be working together to demand the truth from the government, and to hold the people we elect to account.
Now if that’s not something to get better for and aspire to, what is?