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London’s Calling: School Councillors visit the Houses of Parliament

The members of Woodlands’ School Council had a fantastic day in London. We travelled down by train, receiving many compliments from passengers about the children’s behaviour, and the person working in the buffet car said how polite they all were, “We don’t get many like that, I can assure you.”
On arrival in London we made our way to Jubilee Gardens (by the River Thames) where we devoured our picnic lunches! Next stop was the London Eye itself where we were able to see many of the famous landmarks of our capital city: Buckingham Palace, marked by the golden Victoria Memorial glistening in the sunshine; the newly erected Shard, towering over the rest of the city; MI6 headquarters on the bank of the Thames – sadly there was no sign of 007. We even saw the arch of Wembley on the distant skyline.
We crossed Westminster Bridge, pausing only to have our photo taken with Big Ben (actually the Elizabeth Tower), to Portcullis House where we passed through security and were issued with our passes for the afternoon. Our guide, Bridget, explained how this was where a lot of governmental business was carried out with MPs having their offices and committee rooms here. We then descended to the “secret tunnel”, guarded by a lion & unicorn, which led us into the Houses of Parliament themselves. As the MPs were on their Easter recess, we were able to actually enter the chambers of both the House of Commons & House of Lords instead of just sitting in the galleries above. This was a fascinating experience and the children asked many pertinent questions. We were told how the MPs had rules to follow and weren’t allowed to call each other certain names - ‘guttersnipe’, ‘liar’, ‘pipsqueak’ & ‘wart’ being some from the banned list! We discovered how Parliament derives its name from the French parler, meaning to speak via parlementor discussion. Unfortunately photography is not allowed in either House. Westminster Hall was our final stop on our tour – a huge room, dating back to 1097, where many famous people have addressed both Houses of Parliament, including Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev & Bill Clinton.
Next was our parliamentary workshop where the children learnt about constituencies, candidates & manifestos. We were also told what happens if there’s a hung parliament, although one child did suggest that if it was a draw the candidates could have a fight to decide the victor (a possible reality TV show in the future?). The councilors then then were divided in to 4 political parties, produced their own manifestos (with costs to the taxpayer included) and presented their ideas. After a hard-fought election, though thankfully no one was called a “guttersnipe”, the Yellow Party (‘C the Power’) emerged victorious with policies that included more Fairtrade food in supermarkets and making criminals carry out community service in the communities they’d committed their crimes. Ella was selected as Prime Minister – be afraid, very afraid!
We then had tea in an Italian restaurant – thank you Prezzo – it was delicious!
Finally, we travelled back to Formby, arriving well past everyone’s bedtime. We were all very tired but it was worth it – we’d had a wonderful day!