Every morning I ride my motorbike across Westminster Bridge. I'm not originally from London so I still get a real sense of touristy excitement at getting so up close and personal to Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament; two global icons. It's odd, but seeing them and thinking about what they stand for always fills me with a huge sense of positivity that lasts with me throughout the rest of the day. Until recently. A few weeks ago, something odd happened. It was a beautiful crisp early Autumn morning. The sky was huge and blue with not a cloud to be seen. The sun was shining beautifully off the golden towers and spires of Westminster Palace. Stunning! And there I was, driving over the bridge, expecting the hit of positive energy. But it didn't come. I was empty. Flat. It was like Westminster was dead to me.
I couldn't figure out what had happened. And it kept happening for the next few days until one morning, when I pulled up at the lights next to Big Ben, a few headlines flashed through my mind; scandal after scandal, allegations of hideous abuse behind those walls. Those headlines were then joined by images of a ramshackle and moribund institution full of self serving individuals with an over-sized sense of entitlement and value. Oh, and a pig's head (by the way, friends of twitter, thank you giving me 45 minutes of unbridled joy with #piggate).
It turns out that over time I'd lost my connection with Westminster. I believe I had become one of the disillusioned. Or disenfranchised. I don't know which. It turns out, I just don't care!
But I really want to care. I turned 40 this year. I got a grown-up job. I started enjoying whiskey. These are things that responsible adults do alongside debating politics and tutting at news items on the TV.
So imagine my delight when I was invited by the wonderful politics team at The Huffington Post UK to join them for a trip to Westminster. Surely this was my chance to get even closer to the action. To get a real first hand view of what actually happens behind those crumbling walls. To re-connect with Westminster, with politics and with adulthood. I was going to PMQs.
It turns out it's just like school. I went to a Catholic boarding school in the south west of England; pomp, ceremony, tradition, coattails and pinstripe trousers, cold corridors, windy classrooms, fagging and complicated hierarchies. Just like Hogwarts. Just like Westminster. I left school over 20 years ago and haven't been close to that level of pomp and ceremony since. After school I went to university in Swansea, drank a lot of beer and played rugby - enough said, yes.
As I reflect on PMQs I can't help wondering what would happen if I ran one of my leadership meetings that way, with that lack of respect for another human, with that level of disdain for giving an actual answer and that level of bawdy, sneering, finger pointing. Hang on, it'd be like that other make-believe, pantomime view of the world; The Apprentice.
I'm reliably informed by people who ought to know, that there is actually some sensible and genuine work carried out by MPs. It's just that it's usually pretty dull to watch. But it does happen. And not always in the House of Commons. As we walk through the reception of Portcullis House, there are groups of MPs huddled around stale plastic tables, suddenly looking pretty sensible. There's not a braying voice or any angry dextrous indication in sight.
So, what do I think? Am I re-connected with politics? Not yet. PMQs is still too much of a pantomime. It was just weird watching David Cameron trying to get all angry and red in the face to prove his loathing of Labour. There was still too much absurd jeering and groaning that I wouldn't even accept from my four year old.
But there is hope for my adulthood yet. I'm going to go back and watch one of the less politicised debates and see if that will change my mind.
Until then, Westminster; You're Fired!