Last Wednesday 31 October 2012, I had the pleasure of accompanying my residents in Stoke Park to Westminster, at the invitation of Ben Gummer MP.
Ben is planning on repeating the outing for all his constituents, one ward each month, because he believes that people must be brought closer to Parliament and Westminster.
We left Stoke Park Asda at 3.30pm where nearly 100 booked residents turned up (truly a magnificent response) for the sum of £ 15 just to cover the coach costs.
I had a lovely journey down, as my mother and step father are both Stoke Park residents, so I had the added bonus of being able to enjoy their company too. I was also pleased to note that I knew most of the residents and after 6 years you might think I should but I appreciate that many contact me when they think I need to know something and trust me to get things done in the ward - it was a real pleasure to share some fun with them.
After a pleasant journey we arrived just before 6pm and made our way into the Westminster building by following one of Ben Gummer’s assistants James, and Ben’s campaign manager Olivia. We were welcomed by Ben in the Grand Committee room for a chat before he lead the tours around the building.
Ben was charming, informative, witty and warm. I felt so proud that my residents were enjoying such a treat from one of Ipswich’s finest MPs - my mother was most impressed, a rare thing! Talking about mothers, Ben’s made us some cake, to have with our tea and coffee, as she thought it terrible that we were all going to be refreshed but not fed. Thanks Mrs Gummer, and panitone is one of my favourites!
We then set off in 3 groups, although some of us did have a bit of a wait, which gave me a chance to speak to some of the residents. However the wait was worth it as we set off first into Westminster Hall. What a gaff!
Built in 1099 for hosting state occasions and to impress, it has the largest surviving single span mediaeval timber roof in Northern Europe. The Hall and the Jewel Tower were the only parts to survive the fire of 1834, the rest had to be rebuilt. It truly is a magnificent hall still used to host important events, some of which are commemorated with plaques set into the floor.
We then went through St Stephens Hall, itself a room full of historical events, into the central lobby, which is at the heart of our democracy. This is where people can exercise their right to lobby and is a public area whilst the house of commons is sitting.
The House of Lords is a sight to behold and I was in awe of the opulence, grandeur and atmosphere of the whole of Westminster. It made me want to be an MP (but that was momentarily. I came to my senses a few hours later).
Make no mistake, being an MP is a lot of hard work, a great deal of responsibility and requires the strength, the dedication, the focus, the commitment and the humour, which Ben has in abundance.
We are very lucky to have him as our MP and I know you will love this trip to Westminster if you take up the unique offer from Ben in due course.