Report by David Callard, Politics teacher at KPS
March 20th 2019 was a good day to visit Parliament given the ongoing arguments over the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit).
Politics students Lidiia, Arman and Kate from the first-year Sixth, along with Oli, Subegh, Henry and Jaime from the second-year Sixth emerged from the tube at Westminster station. The first impression was taxis. Lots of taxis going nowhere, bringing traffic to a halt because of a protest against “unfair competition”. Where better to make your point that outside Parliament?
And onto Brexit. It was impossible to ignore with flag-waving groups on either side of the road outside the Parliament entrance. EU flags faced Union Jacks. Banners proclaiming love for the European Union faced banners proclaiming “Leave means leave” and “Betrayal of the People”. Among the crowds was one MP; the veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner explaining his views to a small group of listeners.
After clearing security checks, we went into the building; a long hall very old and paintings on both sides. A short queue was followed by entrance to the public gallery to watch the House of Commons in action. Last time I was here, about ten MPs were debating bees. This time, it was a well-attended chamber with a minister answering questions from all sides about preparations for leaving the EU. Presiding over business was the Speaker, John Bercow, with his distinctive voice pronouncing on points of order and parliamentary conventions. The only time it went quiet was when one MP suggested an extra session on a Saturday morning.
After about an hour watching the Commons in action, we moved on for a short look at the House of Lords in action. This was very different; more like a business meeting as peers talked about administrative issues connected to the possible closure of a provider of government services. The House of Commons is theatre; noisy and partisan. The House of Lords, a revising chamber, is more serious in tone.
Emerging from Parliament after a visit of about two hours, the protestors were still there. Apparently, they are there every day. What will they do if/when Brexit is ever resolved?