Happy Halloween

Since the success of the Harry Potter books many people have compared the palace of Westminster to Hogwarts. The palace with its Neo-Gothic stone façade contains corridors with encaustic tiled floors and walls lined with canvasses depicting dead heroes from forgotten campaigns. The large lobbies that connect the corridors are adorned with massive ornate brass chandeliers and marble statues of past Prime Ministers, saints and sovereigns. Stained glass windows, wooden panelling and leather seats with the portcullis motif combine to complete the setting. Late in the evening when the tourists have gone and the estate is quiet I can hear my own footsteps echo as I walk these corridors and it is easy to imagine the ghosts of past parliamentarians walking behind me their breath hanging in the cold air. In the shadows it’s possible to believe there are figures moving slowly, maybe an ancient Lord, maybe Lord Voldemort. And as an accompaniment there are costumes and role playing. Events are stage managed and all attempts are made to support an insular environment. Faux politeness is maintained to disguise the undercurrent of mistrust and people are not what they appear to be. Amidst the staging, disguises and scripts it is the task of all elected members to see Westminster as it is, not a palace, museum or theatre but a malfunctioning bastion of bureaucracy. The job entails staying in touch with the real world, facing up to real problems and creating real solutions and that means most importantly not falling under the spell of Westminster. Not even at Halloween.