|10 Jul 2023|
On Monday 12th June, the A Level Politics department visited the Houses of Parliament. Our special thanks go to Katy Craven (née Altman) (Burgh, 1982) who went above and beyond to organise the speakers for the group. The day was a huge success, as reflected in the reports from two of the students below.
The A Level Politics department had the pleasure of visiting the Houses of Parliament to see both chambers and enhance our learning of the processes of both the House of Commons and Lords.
The trip began with a beam of optimism, almost as bright as the sweltering June sun of Westminster, as students travelled into the capital looking forward to exploring some of Britain’s most historical institutions. Following the walk to the Houses led by the equivalently giddy Mr Findlay, we were shown a short clip by the tour guides about the history of Parliament and how our county’s government has evolved with the monarchy.
The guides split the group in four and embarked upon the tour of the Houses, giving us the opportunity to enter the hallowed ‘monarchs entrance’, a unique experience that all students relished and would reflect positively on at the end of the trip. The guides were filled with an abundance of knowledge on the artwork surrounding us and with their words, painted a picture of history like we could not have fathomed on our own accord. This part of the trip was thought to be a highlight by many as we entered both the chambers and were given the chance to stand in the same spots as many of our political heroes – an experience in which I concluded that it would not be the last time I was stood at the PM’s bench in the House of Commons…
With the political juices flowing and a new wealth of knowledge in our brains, we had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Baker, MP for High Wycombe. This was a surreal moment for many of us as we had never interacted with someone of Mr Baker’s political importance, as seen in his involvement with the post-2019 Brexit government.
However, the introductions had only just began as we were lucky enough to have a vast Q+A session with many members of the Westminster cycle. This included an introduction to OB, James Nation, who serves as a SPAD to PM, Rishi Sunak. This allowed behind the scenes access for all of us to see how high figures work and how Berkhamsted shapes the current government. Additionally, we had the opportunity to speak with three current-sitting MPs. We first got to speak with Shaun Bailey, the MP for West Bromwich West, who opened our eyes to the role he has as an MP in an underprivileged area and how difficult the job can be when winning a seat unexpectedly. Following this, we interviewed Mark Fletcher, the new MP for Bolsover, who defeated the infamous Dennis Skinner in the 2019 general election. This followed on from Mr Bailey’s talk by further illustrating the difficulties in making change in underprivileged regions of the UK. Furthermore, both of these interviews provided us with an interesting perspective of MPs who had recently opposed the party leadership of Boris Johnson.
Furthermore, we had the chance to speak with Ruth Henig, who is a sitting member of the House of Lords. Her words were starkly different to the previous MPs we had been with and showed an eagerness to understand how our young minds saw the current state of the House of Lords. Baroness Henig was able to capture her career in a short time and provide us with a serious furthering education of our education of the processes of the House of
Lords. Our morning was finished with a session with our MP, Gagan Mohindra. This provided us with the opportunity to find out what actually happens within our constituency and see the tangible results of an MP in a town such as Berkhamsted. Mr Mohindra was happy to answer our questions on his career and why he is proud to serve South-West Herts.
Overall, our morning in the Houses of Parliament was a unique experience that we will cherish for many years as our department provided with opportunities, we could never had thought possible.
The morning was considered by many to be the best part of the trip and possibly even of their Politics A Level so far!
On the 12th of June the Politics students of Berkhamsted had the opportunity to visit the Highest Court of Appeal in the UK, the Supreme Court. This is the same place where Boris Johnson's attempt to prorogue Parliament was deemed 'unlawful.' We had a detailed tour of this historic building, including the main court. We learned how it was designed differently to courts of lower appeals. Examples of this include the jury being placed on the same level as the barristers, solicitors and the accused. Seats are shaped in an oval layout to improve discussion. The prosecutors and defendants also sit on the bench to reinforce that it isn't one against another.
Our guide gave us the once in a lifetime opportunity to re-create a court case! This was an honour and privilege for all of us. The case was R v Gnango on the presence of joint enterprise. This is a common law doctrine where an individual can be jointly convicted of a crime another committed if the court foresaw the other party was likely to commit that crime. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to debate on behalf of the prosecution, issuing my points to the Lords and Ladies in front of me – my peers. They were then given the opportunity to make their own judgement. It was an honour not only for me but for everyone to speak and sit on the prestigious courtroom: a trip to remember, a trip to be carried on and most importantly a trip we all enjoyed.