Westminster is a public-school parliament that reeks of snobbery – Kenny MacAskill

Boris Johnson and his frontbenchers during Parliament's first sitting since the general election (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson and his frontbenchers during Parliament's first sitting since the general election (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)
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Kenny MacAskill finds himself underwhelmed, rather than over-awed, as he walks the corridors of power in Westminster as the new SNP MP for East Lothian.

I suppose I’m a hybrid at Westminster. A new boy there but with plenty political experience, albeit elsewhere. Staff are remarkably helpful and very friendly though there’s an information overload and everything in the early days can appear a blur. It’ll take time and I know from before just to pace yourself and it’ll come.

Having been there before to meet with Home Secretaries or give evidence to committees, I know the layout and have a sense of the atmosphere.

However, a fleeting dip is nothing like being fully immersed and colleagues who’ve served in both were right to reflect on the pace and pressure being more intense.

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That said, I’m far from over-awed and, in many ways, underwhelmed. The Holyrood building debacle scarred my early memories as an MSP, but it’s the Palace in comparison to Westminster. For all its Gothic grandeur from afar, it’s hardly suitable for a 21st-century democracy. It’s a building site and rabbit warren with rooms and chambers entirely inadequate, despite lavish spending that puts the cost of the Scottish Parliament firmly in the shade. The Chamber is smaller than it appears on TV but the behaviour can be as ignorant as is often seen. Many Scots MPs – from whatever party – have described it as akin to a public school. It is and it reinforces not just a class system but a caste system with hierarchy and snobbery reeking from every pore. But it’s what you make of it that matters, so I’ll just get on with it.