Portcullis House review
I went on a little tour of Portcullis House today, to see their contemporary art collection. It's where the MPs have their day-to-day offices so you have to be ready for a frisk and a pat down by the coppers on the door. Once you are through them you head upstairs to the first floor, where they have all the photos and paintings dotted around the walls.
I wouldn't say it's the most popular tour in town... I was the only one there! Admittedly it was quite early in the morning (9.45 AM), but it was literally just me and the guide -- a nice lady called Andrea -- who had to lead me around the place on my own. It can't be easy for her when she has to talk to just one solitary guy for 75 minutes, but it turned out quite well actually, because I got to ask a few more questions than I normally would. It certainly didn't bother me that I was all on my lonesome.
The tour takes in the whole of the first floor, which is arranged like a big balcony around the open-plan foyer. That's where they have those big indoor trees which are supposed to be costing the taxpayer a fortune. It's also where they have all the restaurants and cafes (not open to the public). Parliament is in recess at the moment so I didn't see anyone famous, but I'm sure if you came on another day you might see a whole host of famous faces munching on their buns and having a cup of tea.
The tour starts off in the Betty Boothroyd Committee Room, where the guide gives you a little potted history of Parliament and Portcullis House. She also explains what the Committee Room is used for. After that you head off around the balcony to see the pictures on the walls. They are all quite modern and show prominent politicians, Prime Ministers and Ministers of State. I think the earliest one they had was of Macmillan, so there's nothing before the war. Churchill is only shown on his last day as an MP -- in 1964. Prime Ministers are well represented, all the way up to David Cameron, and you have ex-party leaders like Kinnock, Foot, and William Hague too. Other famous people include Diane Abbot, Dennis Skinner, Kenneth Clarke, Tony Benn, David Blunkett and Ian Paisley -- a very varied collection.
Whilst you are looking at all the different pictures the guide is busy telling you about the sitter, so you end up learning something about the MPs too. All-in-all I thought it was a very worthwhile little tour... and you get to have a little nose around Portcullis House too, which is a bonus.
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