Year 12 Parliament Trip
Well, that was quite a visit, and, in truth, I am not entirely sure it wasn’t just some crazy dream sequence we all experienced collectively. Previously, as reported in the Head’s update, we have never got beyond the door at No.10 before going on to Parliament, but this time we found ourselves on our trip shaking hands with the PM’s wife and eating our packed lunches on the state dining table.
As well as getting a tour which took in the famous staircase with all the prime ministers’ portraits (which features in ‘Love Actually’) and the Cabinet Room with the feted oval-shaped table, we also had a Q&A session with Mrs Murty and officials (civil servants and ‘spads’) who work for the Prime Minister. We learned a lot.
- We learned how “Downing Street” got its name. (It was built by Sir George Downing who was a political operator at the time of the English Civil War – siding sometimes with the King and sometimes with Parliament. No.10 is effectively 3 houses joined together by the architect William Kent and gifted to the Prime Minister of the day by the Crown)
- We learned the difference between a ‘spad’ (special advisor) and a civil servant. (Civil servants are neutral, work for any government and don’t change – spads change with the politicians and are not paid for out of taxpayers money)
- We learned that speech writers have to be very adaptable in how they work with PMs (David Cameron always operated person to person and never touched a keyboard whereas it wasn’t uncommon for Gordon Brown to send 100 emails a day)
- We learned that Rishi’s Media spad had a passion for cheerleading when she was young, and
- We also learned that Rishi and Akshata met while they were studying at Stanford University in the States and that he proposed to her on a beach in California where a Scottish bagpiper played.
The trip round Parliament seemed a little more subdued than normal in comparison, although the political aficionados among us spotted that the group in front was being lead round by John McConnell (Jeremy Corbyn’s ex-shadow chancellor). We also subsequently had another Q&A with Lord Aberdare in the parliamentary education unit before returning home at 7pm.
It was a long day!!