A good day was had by all. To the surprise of some there, we were as a group allowed up into the public gallery, though not before it was checked with Parliamentary security what the rules were for entering with masks on... eventually we were waived through into the airport style scanners, were photographed and then queued up where you have to provide your name and address on an official looking form whereby you promise not to disrupt proceedings from the gallery. All masks and costumes had to be removed. Truth is, after only a few minutes of listening to a climate change debate was needed for Old Holborn and the rest of us to fancy heading back to the pub; so we left.
My attendance on the day was in part because I dislike our government and what they are doing, and I am angry with what is going on in Parliament. I do not feel represented, and I like to get up to Parliament a few times a year to join in with various protests and marches. Old Holborn would probably point out that this was not a protest, and that would be true, which was my second reasoning. I wanted to see if a group of individuals who are openly critical of Government could still access Parliament and get in slapping range of our elected and unelected politicians. With laws being passed that will not allow for unapproved protesting around Parliament, and that prevent people from taking photographs in the street all in the name of protecting us from terrorism, but really enabling MP's and the state to be more and more removed from people; my fear was that a group of people with dissenting opinions may be stonewalled under anti-terrorism laws. In the grandest traditions of British protest and eccentricity, the land where a person will roll a penny for miles to raise money for charity, walk the marathon in a submariners suit and where magicians will live in a perspex box over the river for a few months, what level of fear, if any would a group of people in plastic masks attempting to watch our government function first hand generate?
From the pub where I met the group who had already been to Downing Street it would seem we were under what I assume was police surveillance. We walked from the Westminster Arms to St Stephens Gate at the front of Parliament. I found out later that on the way there some of the costumed attendees had met with remarks in the street from people who assumed, well, I am not sure what they assumed, but they felt free enough to let off some disparaging remarks. At Parliament the main players were denied access initially in their costumes but eventually, when security was satisfied (and after Tory Bear had conducted an Interview for Guy News) we were ushered in and very subtly broken into smaller groups. Firstly by allowing only a few through the initial security barriers, then by making us queue before heading up to the gallery. During this time additional groups, including school children were allowed through so as to separate us out. They needn't have worried, everyone I spoke with was polite and in no way hostile; and quite possibly there out out the same kind of curiosity as I. It is also worth mentioning that the Police, and uniformed "Police Staff" were again as with my previous visits exceptionally polite, and as with before they seem to enjoy seeing people turn up who will give politicians something to think about. From previous visits and this one it is clear that the resentment the public feels leads right up to Parliament and is felt by those who protect the fantastic building and those who work there.
On the way out from the gallery, Old Holborn and some others were sidelined by security, though I did not get to hear why. I was told third-hand that they wanted to know why we were all there, and identified him as the group leader. Given the reaction from other staff, this may well have been from genuine curiosity and support, though my guess is that OH would have not given them any more info than he wanted to.
And that was that, which lead then to my third and in truth the biggest motivator for going and that was a chance to go have a drink with some fellow bloggers which is always good fun. Before heading home, The Boiling Frog and I nipped back to the St Stephens Tavern for a quick pint of Badger Beer which has been living in the memory since the May jolly organised by Steve Green.
So it was a good day and a good experience. Having had a read around everyone seems to have attended and taken away something different from the day. They do this kind of thing more justice than I do in their writings, so here are a few recommended links to get some different perspectives (and some much better pictures).
Old Holborn - Hogwarts
Anonymong - Thoughts on a second walk
Snowolf - The one that had a good time...
Billy Blofeld - Old Holborns walk
Dick Puddlecote - Stroll On
Guthrum - In the words of Max Boyce - I was there
And this from Dungeekin, who did not make it but it sounds like he will do next year.