Houses of ParliamentWhatever your politics, elect to tour the corridors of power
There are several ways in to the Palace of Westminster (apart from becoming an MP). You could turn up on the day to sit in the public gallery of the House of Commons (free but no guarantees) or contact your MP who can arrange a free tour (find your MP at https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/find-your-mp) but you’ll probably have to wait a couple of months on average. (Your MP can also sort a free Big Ben tour, once it reopens in 2021.)
A quicker way to see the Mother of All Parliaments is to pay your way in taking a self-guided tour with an audio-guide headset, or a tour led by an actual real life human being. The guided tour is the most expensive option but there are lots of time-slots and, crucially, you can ask questions about anything you see inside that might pop into your mind.
There’s so much to see: apart from the Houses themselves, the historic art and architecture: from the mediaeval oak hammer-beam roof (northern Europe’s longest self-supporting example, but you already knew that I'm sure) with carved angels in Westminster Hall to the Thames-tide-controlled New Dawn glass artwork by Mary Branson which celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert appear everywhere, as the rebuilding of the Palace after the fire of 1834 took place just three years after her coronation.
One thing you won't be able to miss is the portcullis (castle gate) emblem created by architect Sir Charles Barry, who won the competition to design the new Palace, which now appears on everything from seats to stationery, and even your guide’s trousers.
Interesting tales are abound, but it’s hard to underestimate the impact of standing amid the green leather benches of the House of Commons where decisions that affect our daily lives are made (even if you’re also wondering how big the moth problem is in the building, given that there are moth traps on the ends of those benches.
The whole place drips with the history and drama of the cut and thrust of centuries of heated political debate. Wonderful stuff.
Credit: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com
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