by Quilbert Silversword
"HM Parliament has had a truly remarkable run, and as such would make an excellent addition to the National Trust’s already stellar property portfolio."
It is known as the mother of all Parliaments. The Palace of Westminster, showered in golden glory, has for hundreds of years been a beacon of democracy. It is here that every year, ma’am lets us all ruddy well get on with it. Here empire was built, freedom was won, and great British institutions were forged in a tradition of individual liberty and fairness.
While it has not always been the case, today, Parliament is open to the public. In fact, it is your legal right as a Briton to unhindered entry into the Palace whenever the moment strikes you.
Upon being invited into the Palace for a literary awards ceremony, I was compelled to exercise this liberty one cold March evening, and document my findings here. What I discovered was shocking, and may have changed my life forever.
The people’s voice: quite rude
Before I begin weaving my own tale, we must first look to the public to understand what Parliament means to them.
Take Westminster’s Big Ben. Today, the London landmark is publicly reviled for disappearing behind very expensive renovations built to stave off its inevitable prolapse. As an exercise in what my research intern tells me is legally-mandated journalistic practice, we covertly surveyed two ‘vox pops’ from the popular Internet website, Trip Advisors, in order to close the gap with the zeitgeist:
MrBen is under construction
✯ / 5
I’ve seen it before but he’s all covered up 😢 Poor Mr Ben . I feel sorry for someone who is traveling to see Mr. Ben. There is nothing to see but the face of the clock.
Or one dismayed citizen, from the still-recovering Coventry:
✯✯ / 5
Don't bother visiting at the moment. Still undergoing refurb work so unless you like looking at scaffolding and tarpaulin not worth the hassle. Plus the building next door is full of Braindead zombies
But as many foreigners don’t know, ‘Big Ben’ does not actually refer to anything at all in particular. It is in fact the historical moniker for a rodent’s nest placed under royal oath at the top of Elizabeth Tower. It is the walling off of this tower that has led to Parliament’s algorithmic evisceration at the hands of dismayed continental tourists.
But I wasn’t there to listen to broken clocks, even those that are right twice a day. I was there to fulfil a childhood dream of mine—to see we unfortunate, mucky-faced peons represented in the belly of the beast.
Entry policy: a conspicuous lack of doormen
I must stress that this was not my first visit to Parliament. That honour goes to an old boy’s school trip at the tender age of 17. Upon this inaugural visit, I picked a scab too hard and bled all over the floor. Needless to say, the Parliamentary staff were very confused and didn’t quite know what to do with me. I was ejected hesitantly.
Since that fateful first visit, the door policy of the Houses of Parliament has deteriorated somewhat. Nobody checked my credentials upon arrival at the visitor entrance. Instead, a man in a lanyard handed me my own lanyard and waved me through to an Ex-ray machine.
If the bar to entry is this low for Parliament, I can only dread to think what the situation is like at our Northern Irish border. As far as this reviewer is concerned, neither the health and safety policy nor the security protocols of Westminster stands up to muster. If you are a security-conscious person and would like to be more thoroughly scrutinised, I suggest Stansted Airport business lounge.