One of the more interesting projects that I have been involved with over the past couple of years is some software development for the House of Commons.
The precise details of my work are of course confidential, but it does involve the occasional visit by yours truly to the corridors of power. And generally, these visits involve, at some stage, having lunch.
Parliament is naturally generous enough to provide ample dining facilities for not only the Right Honourable Members, but also all their employees, contractors, and guests, as well as the odd journalist or two. So, just yesterday, I found myself making use of one of the aforementioned dining facilities.
Now I am used to ancient institutions with long standing traditions. I was brought up in the Church of England, and I attended Cambridge University, so the quirks, graces and pecking order associated with such places are no surprise to me. I therefore did not bat an eyelid on seeing the notice in the cafeteria informing us that MPs have priority.
However, it was rather amusing to see that the Sky News political correspondents’ eyelids had most definitely and publicly been batted:
Much hilarity, gossip and swapping of anecdotes in the Sky News Westminster office about the edict from the Sergeant at Arms, Major General Grant Peterkin, ordering we mere mortals to stand aside for MPs when we’re queuing for our fish and chips in the Stranger’s Cafeteria.
The item on Sky News this evening made it out to be a fairly new edict, but it seems to me that it’s more a case of Yet Another Ancient And Hallowed Tradition That Has Been Lost In The Mists Of Time. A bit like the rule in Cambridge that Fellows are allowed to walk on the grass in the College Courts, but undergraduates aren’t.