On International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8th March), The Ashcombe School’s Politics students were given a tour around the Houses of Parliament to broaden their knowledge of the history of the establishment and get a glimpse of some of the most well-known MPs. It cannot be ignored that this was on a big day for the House of Commons as MPs scrutinized Rishi Sunak and the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman over their new plans to stop the boats arriving from Calais.

The tour started underneath the tallest tower of Parliament. At only half a metre taller than the Elizabeth Tower (more famously known as Big Ben), the Victoria Tower is at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster and is where monarchs of all generations have entered Parliament in grand processions for their annual speech. Much to all of our surprise, the tower above us was home to 64,000 Acts of Parliament dating back to as far as 1497. This includes the largest Act of all, which when unfurled is a quarter of a mile long! Its topic: the 1821 Land Tax Act.

After going through the Sovereign’s Robing Room (what would essentially be the King’s living room for when he comes to Parliament), we made it to the House of Lords: the moment we’d all been waiting for. What was usually only ventured into by TV cameras was now in front of our own eyes. At one end, was a throne made of real gold for the King’s opening speech, while the rest of the room was taken up by its iconic red sofas, known to be rather too comfy for some Lords. What surprised me and the other students was how small the room itself was… only 400 peers would be able to fit into the chamber at once, which can hardly be said to cater for the 778 peers. Of course, the room was enclaved by a huge number of microphones, dangling from the ceiling as well as multiple cameras. While we ourselves didn’t qualify to sit on the red chairs, we were granted permission to take a seat in the press box.

Next, we headed up to the Speaker’s procession, which took place 15 minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions. It gave the House a chance to bring the famous mace into the chamber, so that MPs could meet under its symbol of royal authority. Following the mace into the House was Lindsay Hoyle: the Speaker of the Commons. Once Hoyle had made his entrance, we had a chance to find a place in the Commons viewing gallery. Sadly, we didn’t make it very far before being stopped and turned around by a policeman. Back in the foyer, we managed to spot a few MPs including Liz Truss’ Secretary of State for Levelling Up Simon Clarke.

Our last stop in Parliament was Westminster Hall. This room came across rather underwhelming to begin with as it seemed like nothing more than an empty hall. However, its legacy spoke for itself once we were told it was where President Zelenskyy had made a speech just a few weeks before and where Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was placed for the few days before her funeral. Undoubtedly, many of us Brit’s would associate this room with members of the public queuing for hours upon end to see the Queen’s coffin and pay their respects.

Once our tour of parliament was over, we headed to Trafalgar Square for lunch, where we were greeted by a demonstration in honour of International Women’s Day, involving around 50 women, all dressed up in gowns from the famous novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Our last stop of the day was none other than the Supreme Court. We were let loose into two of the court rooms and sat in seats usually reserved for Justices like Lady Hale.

Overall, it was a very successful and insightful trip, even though we had to watch Prime Minister’s Questions from home at the end of the day.