Westminster: a cross between Hogwarts and the West Wing, writes Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon
It’s a bizarre and beautiful building, and the word ‘maze’ doesn’t do it justice. Fortunately all the staff are incredibly helpful and you soon find your way round.
The first time in the House of Commons was like stepping on to a film set and realising that I was now a part of the cast (however small).
Unusually, the first time I spoke wasn’t my formal maiden speech. I managed to catch The Speaker’s eye and asked a question about apprenticeships for small businesses. It was odd to hear my own name being called and then hearing my voice in that chamber.
When it came to my maiden speech, it absolutely flew by. I had 7 minutes but when I looked at the clock thinking I was about half way through, I realised that my time was nearly up. Somehow, I managed to finish without being cut off abruptly, which has happened to some. Incidentally, if you’re interested in reading the text of the speech you can do so by clicking here: http://bit.ly/bJKic2
Accommodation has been a real challenge. Justin Tomlinson and I have been squatting in other people’s offices for the last few weeks. There simply aren’t enough desks to go round for all 650 MPs, and being new backbenchers, we’re pretty near the bottom of the pecking order. But we have now been allocated an office of our own. Meanwhile in Swindon the search for a constituency office goes on. Justin and I want to have a joint office in a central location, to make it the best possible value for money and as convenient as possible. So watch this space.
As far as my own arrangements are concerned, for the most part I’ve been staying with friends or occasionally in a hotel room. I’m determined to spend at least four nights a week at home with my family in Swindon. It means a lot of commuting, but it’s worth it.
I’ve already welcomed a number of constituents to Parliament – from primary school children, up to a lady of 86. If you’d like information about a visit, or anything else, please get in touch with the Swindon office on 522123. Hopefully it won’t be ‘temporary’ for much longer.
Right, Robert with constituent David Scott at his MP in Freshbrook Community Centre
Quality of life in North Swindon. Justin Tomlinson MP tells Commons that green spaces should be enhanced
It really did take several days to sink in. After years of hard work, three months of non-stop campaigning, and a count that went on until past 4am, you’d think it would have been easier to come to terms with.
But finally being elected as North Swindon’s new MP in the early hours of 7 May really was a lot to take in. The problem was, there was no time to think about it. First thing on the Monday morning, it was up to London for an intensive induction course at the House of Commons. The parallel of the new boy at school is an obvious one, but pretty accurate.
I actually hadn’t been to Westminster more than a couple of times. I’ve been too focused on being a Swindon councillor for the past ten years and working as hard as possible in the community, so coming to London was not a priority. As a result, when I first arrived at the Palace of Westminster, it was a very steep learning curve indeed.
Everyone was very polite and helpful. Even when I stumbled into the catering store while trying to find a meeting room, the bemused member of staff couldn’t have been more pleasant in pointing me in the right direction.
And so to the famous green benches of the House of Commons. The first thing to say is, there aren’t enough of them. However that can work to your advantage. On the day of The Queen’s Speech, I had to hover by the door of the Commons because it was standing room only. But that meant I was in pole position in the procession to and from the House of Lords. As soon as all the government and opposition VIPs had filed by, two by two, I was able to slot in immediately behind them and get a prime vantage point for all the pomp and ceremony.
Once the novelty had worn off, it was down to work pretty quickly. My maiden speech was a great experience (for me anyway). I spoke about quality of life, and how developers and planners need to be more mindful of providing green open spaces, play areas and leisure facilities when they build new estates.
That’s so important in our part of Swindon, and was a good example of the work I want to do at Westminster – being a tireless champion for fellow local residents.
Above, a place for the future. In 1997 The Sun put a bet on Justin being PM within 40 years from leaving university aged 21. If he succeeds he will donate his share of the winnings to charity.