Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Starting with a Bang

Starting with a Bang

The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.

Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Greeting and Grandees

Nearly bumped into David Cameron this morning as he pulled up on his bike and nearly collided with me . "Oops", he murmured. Last week also on a Wednesday our paths crossed in the Gents where he was patting down his hair before PMQs. Again physical proximity led to no exchange of civilities.

This led to me musing on the sociology of everyday life in Parliament.MPs are constantly on the move around the Palace of Westminster and its offices trooping off for votes and meetings- so your paths cross all the time. Most people - visitors and researchers excepted- know who people are, often what their names are and sometimes a fair deal about them. However if whenever you encounter anyone you know you greet them, smile at them or engage them in pleasantries you wouldn't timely get to your destination or would be constantly engaged in reciprocal greetings. So people select- walk past some, greet others, smile diffidently or nod at many - but on what basis?

Generally if you are regularly on a committees with people you greet as you pass them; most though not all party colleagues get a cheery wave or small talk. Spokespeople greet their opposite numbers and gregarious jolly people talk to all and sundry. MPs in neighbouring constituencies chat about the folks back home. However there is the 'grandee rule'.

Top ministers and former ministers of eminence or that club of MPs who by virtue of longevity or pomposity feel they have stature qualify as 'grandees' even if they don't all act like them.

Grandees blank most people but do greet fullsomely other grandees as they pass them hence mutually reinforcing their status- reciprocal preening. Some top press corps chaps have grandee status and act according to the same rules and etiquette. Some ministers to be fair (Jack Straw is a good example) act like anyone else in a lift. Others can change on demotion and gladly reclaim ordinary bloke status or prowl round the place in meaningful isolation like Alan Milburn. John Reid jovially approached Ken Clark and Malcolm Rifkind while we all stood waiting the other night for the voting to finish "Ah the young Turks, is it ?" he said with an ironic chuckle

Grandee talk with a hint of wistfulness.