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College Parliament Trip

On 21st April, our Year 12 & 13 Politics students visited the Houses of Parliament. Read below about Year 12 student Joe's experience of the day...

On 21st April, myself and the other Politics students were fortunate enough to be able to visit the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to experience the running of parliament and to develop a greater understanding of its history, functions and role in modern British politics. We arrived at Westminster at around 11am, and swiftly walked towards the visitors’ entrance; my first impression was one of fascination due to the grandeur of the place – everywhere we turned we were greeted by grand, impressive statues depicting relevant figures of British history, especially of former parliamentarians and prime ministers.

After setting foot in the Visitors’ entrance, we had to undergo a rather unusual, airport-like security entrance, where our bags were taken from us, and we were (understandably) checked for any suspicious objects or substances – fortunately none of us were flagged up by security! Following this brief security check, the tour began; the first place our tour guide took us was to a particularly imposing hallway, where huge paintings depicting famous Napoleonic battles and former kings and queens lined the walls. As I am also a history student, I found this especially fascinating, and we stood there amazed by the sheer length of time it would have taken to create such large, detailed paintings.

After walking through several other similarly grand lobbies and hallways, the part we’d all been excited about finally happened - seeing the House of Commons debate. We were guided up an extremely narrow staircase which led us to the viewing gallery, where we (literally, not metaphorically) looked down upon members debating whether Boris Johnson knowingly mislead the House.

It was during this debate that we were able to witness several famous politicians speak and debate one another, such as Jeremy Corbyn, Angela Rayner, Caroline Lucas and Steve Baker. It was this part, in particular, that we all agreed was the most interesting part of the whole experience, as we’d all seen clips and videos of such things online and on TV and now was the chance for us to experience it all in person.

Having watched the debate for 10-15 minutes, the tour guide moved us along to the next part of the tour, which was the House of Lords – the unelected, upper house of Parliament. Here, we were informed on the major details of the House, namely which kind of people worked there, what its main functions are and the role it plays in the State Opening of Parliament every year when the Queen comes and sits in the chamber.

Following a period of amazement at the grand, red and gold benches that filled the room, we moved on to the final part of our trip, which was the politics workshop and meeting local MP for East Surrey, Claire Coutinho. In this workshop, we were mostly asked questions testing our knowledge on electoral systems (a significant part of our Politics course), and how they worked. Despite this being undoubtedly challenging and interesting, everyone sat around intrigued waiting for the next and final part of the trip – meeting Claire Coutinho. She was probably rather surprised when one of the first questions asked was her views on Boris and ‘Partygate’ - although based on current affairs it was effectively inevitable. Despite this, she was perfectly happy to expand on her position even if she didn’t answer it directly! The other questions asked were generally milder, such as, what her regular schedule is like and who inspired her to enter politics. Overall, meeting her was a very enlightening experience as it gave us a great insight into what life is like as an MP and how one can become one.

Joe, Year 12 Student