Friday, 1 October 2010

Pomp and Power

Yes, I know it’s been a while, but it’s been a busy week. What with writing club, book club, my first ever therapy session (no jokes please, it’s for my counselling course), hair cuts, osteopaths and learning about the rules of American Football in preparation for the Wembley match later this month (which I admit sent me to sleep), my feet haven’t touched the ground. And then my actual weekend was consumed by a lovely cold and a visit from my (lovely in a lovely way) parents.
We had planned it months in advance to fit into our busy schedules – sadly my mother has a more active social life than I do – and my mum had organised tickets for the theatre and I bought tickets for a tour of Parliament. All in all a pleasant weekend, although London’s failure to provide easy to use public transport for those of us with mobility problems posed a bit of a challenge at times. As Him Indoors pointed out, not a good indicator for how we will cope with the Paralympics in two years time. Mmm, could be interesting. The theatre was excellent too (Mousetrap – surprisingly comical with a modern feel for Agatha Christie). Even my dad didn’t seem too stressed by the hustle of the city.
What I found most thought provoking, however, was the tour of the Houses of Parliament. It was fascinating seeing in the flesh what you see on the telly all the time, and the bling in the House of Lords and the areas used by the monarch was awesome. The tour guide gave a potted history of British politics, refreshing my knowledge from my school days, and I couldn’t help but feel impressed at how far we have come, from Oliver Cromwell, to where we are today; a vote for all and the opportunity to sit in both the House of Lords and Commons to watch the action, as well as the right to turn up and demand to see your MP.
But then, on the other hand, we have the pomp and ceremony that still goes on today; the Queen reading a speech (to which she doesn’t even contribute) at the beginning of the season, the gold leaf that seems to cover half of the House of Lords, the hardback leather bound books that hold the minutes of every session in both the Commons and the Lords. The 92 seats in the House of Lords that are still inherited by those with the right name. The use of the word “aye” and the yellow line politicians stand behind when debating to prevent the crossing of swords. Something tells me that Cameron and Mr Miliband don’t walk around with such an impressive bladed article. The airport style security would surely pick it up.
But then I think I could deal with the pomp if the distribution of power was more fairly distributed. The guide touched on the likelihood of a referendum on political reform. Surely a must if everyone’s vote is to stand a chance of counting. The there’s the worrying statistics when it comes to class. The fact that the Prime Minister and his Deputy were educated at Eton says it all. I’m sure their expensive schooling has taught them a lot about the working classes, but I fail to see how they are going to fix our “Broken Britain” if they don’t listen to the voices of those who experience life without privilege.
The tour finished in Westminster Hall where our guide informed us the Pope addressed a crowd only a week ago. Him Indoors and I exchanged a look. We had been shopping in Seven Dials at the time and were both relieved to escape from the drone of helicopters above and hide in a basement restaurant. Having seen nothing on the news other than the Pontiff’s planned tour for the last two weeks, I couldn’t help but wince at the thought of how much money had been spent on a visit by a man who has a frightening amount of power. The power to make homosexuals ostracised. The power to stop a teenage girl have an abortion and live the rest of her life caring for a child that will always be an “accident” and fall into the benefits trap before they are old enough to vote. The power to stop people using condoms and unwillingly killing others by spreading a deadly virus. That’s a lot of power, and a lot of money to spend on someone who has reduced the circumstances of so many.
So, will we see an equal distribution of power as the current government gathers its pace? Or will we see those with power grow stronger and help their peers retain their privilege before dealing with the poorer masses? I know what my cynical side thinks, but, on reflection of how far politics has come over the years, I will try to stay hopeful. And thankful that my liberty has not been compromised by the beliefs of an old man who lives in Rome.

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