"The British are special. The world knows it. In our innermost thoughts we know it. This is the greatest nation on earth."
Tony Blair (Former British Prime Minister)
A few weeks ago, Megan and I decided to go sit in on a session of Parliament. Trying to get information about getting into Parliament is on the more difficult side. The website gives very few details and it says that you need to have your member of Parliament give you a tour. As an American, I obviously do not have one of these. One Friday Megan and I decided to just show up and see what happened.
The British Parliament has two separate Houses headed by Queen Elizabeth II. On one side you have the House of Commons and on the other side the House of Lords. Just a little inside knowledge (from a political science major) the House of Commons is definitely the one to see. The Commons has a reputation of becoming quite rowdy. Between yelling Brits and objects being thrown around, the House of Commons can be extremely entertaining. The Commons is the elected body who do a majority of the lawmaking in the UK. It is also where you can find the current Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Unsure of what to expect we had low expectations for this outing. When we arrived all we had to tell security was that we wanted to get inside to see a debate. They send you through TSA like security before they let you in, but that was totally expected because after all, this is the home of one of the most powerful governments in the world. Once into the building you wait in another line to get into the different houses.
This was the furthest into parliament that we were allowed to take pictures (if you do the men with large guns remove you from the building). When you are about to enter the viewing gallery they make you check in most of your belongings. They did allow us to take in our journals and pens after making sure there was nothing inappropriate written in it.
I did not take this picture so I have to credit these two to Google images. But basically this is what it looks like inside during a full session.
The session we sat in on a Friday afternoon had even less people in attendance, probably about 50 less if I was to guess (only 3 people on this side). The bill they were debating was a family justice bill. They talked a lot about fuel poverty and the overall cost of living in the UK. The nation spends 3 million a weeks on welfare and from what I understand they feel like they are not doing nearly enough. The conservatives want to expand the nuclear power but those in the Labour party are much more skeptical. The conservatives debated that they need more reactors and time to show the benefits of nuclear power. They argue that nuclear power is a way to give the poor cheep power. They also need to build more energy-efficient subsidized housing.
Sitting in on a session of Parliament was an amazing experience! We hope to go again when there are more MP's in attendance. Wednesdays at noon there is question hour. This is when the Members of Parliament get to question the Prime Minister. This would be great to get into and is one of my goals for my remaining time in London.
Here is an example of how Parliament really works! This is during the Wednesday question hour that I was talking about. This is also really what I want to see... The UK Parliament at its best.