New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:

Westmister Watch

Simon Barrow

BarrowThese days it isn't just anxious looking politicos you'll find wandering in or near the Palace of Westminster. Even more exotic characters have joined the cast list for the rolling parliamentary drama.

Among the unexpected visitors have been Batman, a troupe of clowns, Basil Brush and his foxy friends, a group of zombies and a super-sized duck, all hoping to get their message across and liven up political proceedings at the same time.

The aforementioned 10-foot-high member of the Anatidae family bravely risked a roasting alongside Guy Fawkes on Bonfire Night in order to ensure that MPs didn't 'duck the challenge of accountability', following their plot to overturn Sir Christopher Kelly's expenses recommendations. The duck survived, but a few metaphors were badly mangled.

The enterprising 'Vote for a Change' campaign, which is calling for a public referendum on the voting system, even organised a camera boat down the Thames for the media, to make sure no one missed a quack.

Keen observers will have recognised the reference to Tory grandee Sir Peter Viggers' claim for the £1,645 cost of a 'Stockholm' floating duck house. 'A little taste of Scandinavia for the mallard in your life', claimed protesters wryly.

Mind you, this sort of thing seems small fauna compared to the four billion euros that the same week's El Mundo newspaper estimated as the cost of political corruption over the past decade in Spain, primarily for kickbacks or inflated public contracts. The Euro-dimension is rarely far away from our domestic traumas.

Not long beforehand the zombies had arrived (on Halloween, of course) to condemn the 'Parliament of the Living Dead', before parading along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. Those involved were again agitating for political reform. But they were also eyeing the record books for the largest costumed protest ever seen in the precincts of Westminster.

Where will all this lead? Someone in the security line at Portcullis House, recalling an animal rights demonstration, recently speculated that a fur detector might soon be needed alongside all the metal detectors, just to avoid some sort of dangerous costumery-based political conflagration.
Actually, that has already happened. During the 1997 election campaign, now-defunct Live TV's 'News Bunny' was involved in an unseemly punch up with a bunch of other people dressed in animal outfits for reasons everyone has now forgotten - though it seemed fun at the time.

However, anyone tempted to think that all this fancy dress is new should take a look at the outfits on display in the splendid chamber where the sovereign presides at the annual State Opening of Parliament. Black Rod and his cohorts can certainly give the demonstrators a run for their (your) money in the sartorial department, in tradition and finery if not in innovation.