Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Parliament - first impressions

It's now the morning of my second day in parliament, and I'm waiting for our first meeting of the day to start. Yesterday we had a tour of the palace of Westminster, had a talk from the Royal Society (where I politely asked if there was anything that could be done to persuade Prince Charles to resign his fellowship, since he's pursuing an avowedly anti-science agenda), met our MPs for luch and a photo-op, had a talk from the Hansard Society and then sat in on a meeting of the Innovation, Universities and Skills committee.

A few random impressions:
  • There's a lot of walking, from Norman Shaw to the Lords is a long way. I'd love to meet Anne Begg, the only MP who uses a wheelchair to find out how she manages.
  • The statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the house really helped the Irish member of our party feel welcome.
  • There's a cafeteria in Portcullis house, where a large coffee is 45p, as is a large doughnut. I don't think you'd find such value in any University in the land.
  • There's a complete set of West Wing DVDs in Mark's office, seemingly from Japan. And of course the US election is supposed to be based on Series 7. I hope the fact that the post-Sorkin writers originally intended Santos to lose and only changed the story arc after John Spencer (Leo McGarry) died doesn't spoil things.
  • US conservatives have sometimes said, dismissively, that wishy-washy liberals just want a fictional Matt Santos figure who wouldn't stand a chance in real life. At the moment I'd settle for an Arnie Vinnick if I had to, but I see no sign of such.
  • Any University member who's been appointed to a managerial position or in any way increased his authority should be prevented, by force if necessary, from watching the West Wing for six months.
  • When I was a child the concept of sandwiches with the crusts cut off was shorthand for impossible genteelity, which only the queen would subscribe to and no one would dream of encountering in real life. That's what we had for lunch yeterday.
  • At yesterday's Innovation, Universities and Skills committee meeting on Plastic Electronics someone, possibly Ian Gibson, asked Lord Drayson and Carter what could be done about the poor image of Engineering in this country. My father always said that this was because the only time most people heard the word was when trains were delayed due to 'Engineering work'.

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