July 21, 2024

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“Amazing sense of excitement” – New MPs take it all in

“Amazing sense of excitement” – New MPs take it all in

Image source, Sarah Smith

Comment on the photo, Labour MP Sarah Smith in the Family Room of the House of Commons

  • author, Brian Wheeler
  • Role, Political Correspondent

“I finally realized what I did.”

Stefan Acquarone seemed to be in awe of his first experience sitting in the House of Commons chamber.

“It was all a bit hypothetical before,” says the newly elected Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk. “But when I sat in the chamber it suddenly felt very real.”

What was his first impression of that room?

“It was much smaller than I imagined!”

At least he managed to get a seat.

There are too many Labour MPs on the government benches and not enough room for them all in the chamber. Dozens had to sit in the public gallery to watch Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s re-election as Speaker and the ceremonial opening speeches by the new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, and all the leaders of the opposition parties.

“I actually ended up standing near the doors because it was so crowded,” says Sarah Smith, one of the new batch of Labour members.

“It was just an amazing sense of excitement for what was to come,” she says of her first experience of life on the famous green benches.

The new MP for Hyndburn in Lancashire is equally delighted that her four-month-old son Eli, who has come to London with her, will get to experience all this.

“I got some really great pictures!” she laughs.

Ms Smith has enlisted friends and family to look after Eli while she is in the House of Commons – and is hoping to secure a place for him in a local nursery, as the Parliament nursery is already overcrowded.

She seems unfazed by the challenge.

“I think this shows women that it is possible to achieve this goal. It is not easy but there are ways to achieve it.

“It’s important that we have mothers, parents, caregivers, etc. all represented here.”

Image source, board of the Public

Comment on the photo, One of the first functions of the new Parliament was to choose a new Speaker, with Sir Lindsay Hoyle re-elected.

It’s easy to spot the new MPs on their first day – they all wear green and white belts. Some look less bewildered than schoolchildren wandering around Parliament.

There is a lot to take in.

Everyone started Tuesday in the House of Commons chamber for an off-camera briefing on how everything works – before being whisked upstairs to committee rooms for security briefings and party meetings.

They then returned to the hall to witness for the first time actual parliamentary proceedings.

“From the outside this building looks fantastic, and from the inside it looks even more fantastic,” said the new MP for Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire.

Image source, Peter Brinsley

Comment on the photo, Peter Brinsley met a former patient on his first day.

Some of the newcomers have worked for many years to become members of Parliament.

Others, such as Peter Brinsley, the new Labour MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, were among those picked at the last minute and had not expected to win at the start of the campaign.

One of the first people Mr Brinsley, the ear, nose and throat surgeon, met on his arrival was Paul, a member of the House of Commons security staff, who happened to be one of his former patients.

“I think my day job is going to have to change, frankly,” Brinsley told the BBC.

“The sudden change is a bit of a challenge. So it will take me some time to get things back in order.”

As with all new MPs, he will have to understand the unique geography of Parliament.

“The hardest part of this job, when you first get here, is finding your way around,” says UK Reform Party MP Lee Anderson. “You get lost a lot.”

Party leader Nigel Farage said it was up to Mr Anderson – who defected from the Conservatives earlier this year – to ensure the five reformist MPs did not do so.

“They will settle down soon,” he says.

Image source, board of the Public

Comment on the photo, Nigel Farage has been elected to Parliament on his eighth attempt.

Another striking image is of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, now an independent, sitting on the opposition benches alongside Mr Farage and the Conservatives.

But at least these two people are familiar faces.

Sir Lindsay will have to learn the names and faces of more than 300 new people over the next few weeks, so he can call them on to speak at discussions.

The Speaker’s staff are testing it out – competing with each other in a quiz game they found online that contains audio clips and photos of all 650 MPs.

Sir Lindsay is also a regular guest at the Members’ Tea Room, where he can meet newcomers face to face.

“I am extremely proud of the warm welcome that House of Commons staff have given to this record number of new MPs,” he told the BBC.

“Each member was assigned a buddy to help them navigate the maze of staircases, rooms and hallways throughout the property; had their laptops secured for them, guided to security sessions – and generally made to feel at home.

“It was impressive. I look forward to getting to know my new teammates, and with the help of my team, I will be able to learn everyone’s names.”

The new MPs will soon get over their sense of dread about their new workplace. Everyone speaks of their determination to continue working and making a difference in their constituencies.

The sense that they are all on one mission – as they move from one briefing to another – will also disappear, as the normal hostilities in the House of Commons resume.

But this is a day none of them will forget in a hurry.