Thursday, 5 February 2015

Westminster's underclass

I  submitted this letter to The Independent on 4 February
Sally Newall's review of Michael Cockerell's fly-on-the-wall documentary inside Parliament's  Palace of Westminster ("Even in the Westminster Bubble women are second class citizens,"Last night's TV review, 4 February) suggests the four films will be a revealing, winning series.

I hope so, as someone who has worked with Parliamentarians for over thirty years around Westminster. However, it is a pity film maker Michael Cockerell, in stripping away the historic pomp and anachronisms of the 'Mother of Parliaments' did not recognise in portraying their apparent ploughing the lonely furrow worked by backbenchers Labour's Sarah Champion and Conservative Charlotte Leslie, is that all MPs have staff supporting their work, always in their constituencies, and the majortiy also in the rabbit warren of offices scattered  across the Parliamentary estate.

There are some 650 MPs ( although  Sinn Fein MPs have chosen not to take the oath of honour, so do not partake in Westminster activities), and  between them will have probably over 1300 staff at Westminster.

You would never have guessed from Cockerell's documentary insight that MPs have secretaries, ferreting researchers and other assistants supporting their work on behalf of constituents, and to keep minister to account. The only member of the Westminster underclass he showed was the jolly singing tea lady managing the Members' tea room.

Let's hope their work is unveiled in the next three episodes.

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