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This week, a group of 16 Lower Sixth Politics students went up to Westminster for the day to gain a better insight to the actual workings of our parliamentary system. 

The students were given a morning tour of the Palace of Westminster with Sarah Jones MP (Croydon Central) including Westminster Hall, the House of Lords and Commons Chamber and the Palace of Westminster Chapel, which is not normally accessible to visitors. They even saw the broom cupboard in which Emily Davidson – a suffragette – hid during the 1911 Census so that she could give her place of residence as the Houses of Parliament! 

Trinity alumnus Chris Shaw, who is now Chief Clerk to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, generously spoke to the students, giving a frank and honest account of the work of select committees and some candid views on the effectiveness of the political process. 

The afternoon was spent in the ‘Strangers Gallery’ of the House of Lords, to listen into discussions on the government’s controversial Rwanda bill.  

Politics student Aidan McAllen shares his highlights: “We were very fortunate to be able to visit the quite surreal surroundings of Parliament this week. Whether it be hearing about the strange traditions that MPs have (such as touching the foot of a Winston Churchill statue before entering the House of Commons) or watching a House of Lords debate on Rwanda (which later featured on the news), the experience was one that I won’t forget easily! Many of us were also pleased to see the, somewhat bizarre, procession taking the Speaker into the House of Commons in the afternoon.   

“The school’s local MP, Sarah Jones, gave us a tour around all the areas which we see every day on the news and in our Politics lessons. It was valuable to see these places in reality; you would be surprised about the size of the Commons – it really does feel quite cramped and small! We also had an opportunity to ask questions to Sarah Jones to which she gave frank responses and did give the impression that politicians don’t all seem out of touch.  

“We also benefitted from a discussion with Chris Shaw, Trinity alumnus, who works on the Foreign Affairs Committee as its clerk. He told us an intriguing story from when he and his colleagues were responsible for research into the Afghanistan evacuation a few years ago. They had discovered, through gossip (a lot of this clearly does go on in Parliament too!), that Boris Johnson had asked for pets to be evacuated on one flight instead of people fleeing the Taliban. It was amazing to be in the same room as someone who uncovered these revelations and who has worked with well-known figures – he spoke highly of Rachel Reeves and William Hague, for example.  

“The experience has brought to life our studies of Politics – we have all now seen the places where our laws are made and may well go back to visit the public galleries too.” 

With many thanks to Chris Shaw and Sarah Jones MP for giving their time to our students. 


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