Amid a Brexit battle in the Commons this week, an even more tense Parliamentary rivalry played out over the skies of Bletchley Park on Wednesday – the historic Lords v Commons pigeon race.
Harking back to a once annual Parliamentary tradition, politicians from both houses sponsored a total of 543 pigeons to mark the centenary of the First World War and raise money for veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress.
Despite putting her name to five birds in the race, Prime Minister Theresa May was pipped to the post by Tory MP Alberto Costa – who took gold medal position – and her parliamentary rival Jeremy Corbyn, whose pigeon came in eighth.
The birds took to the skies for the first Parliamentary pigeon race in 90 years, with the last competition held in the quadrangle of the House of Commons in 1928.
Pathé footage from the starting line shows Tory MP Sir Cooper Rawson releasing hundreds of birds from wicker boxes.
Conservative MP Chris Davies, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pigeon Racing Group, said that “with everything that’s going on at the moment”, the race had offered “a bit of light-hearted relief”.
Despite losing, May’s pigeons were “strong and stable in their flight”, he added.
Meanwhile, vice-chair and Labour MP Chris Evans said pigeon racing remains a “huge sport” in his North Wales constituency and across the north of England.
“I’m so delighted that so many of our colleagues have got behind the race.
“I hope it becomes an annual event. Another great thing is that the money is going to Combat Stress, which does a great job supporting our servicemen and women.”
Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, said she was “so grateful” the Royal Pigeon Racing Association had decided to support the charity.
“Each year we receive 2,000 referrals from former servicemen and women dealing with trauma-related mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression,” she added.
“Without amazing fundraisers we wouldn’t be able to provide this life-changing support.”