"It is quite difficult to describe how miserable I feel"by Ian Irvine / June 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Thelma Cazalet-Keir (Conservative, Islington East, elected in the Tory landslide of 1931, aged 32):
“On the opening day, it is essential to arrive almost at the crack of dawn to put a card inscribed ‘Prayers’ on a seat—any seat you like, except of course the government and opposition front benches. There is only room for about 400 out of the 615 MPs in the Chamber itself, so unless you reserve a seat in this way you may have to squat in the gangways or stand behind the Bar. After prayers, you can put your card in a slot at the back of the seat, and it belongs to you for the day. Some elder statesmen establish a sort of usage right to a seat—for example, Winston Churchill when out of office was always allowed the corner seat on the front bench below the gangway, but otherwise it is a free for all. When the government has an enormous majority [the National Government had just won one; its Conservatives alone taking 470 seats, while Labour was reduced from 287 to just 52], their supporters overflow onto the opposition side of the House; but mostly a large majority means a less crowded House, because nobody is afraid of bringing down the government by absenteeism.
“When I entered the House there was still something slightly freakish about a woman MP, and I frequently saw male colleagues pointing me out to their friends as though I were a sort of giant panda. The House has been labelled ‘the best Club in the world,’ but it was nothing of the sort to women.”