The following article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News newspaper on 29 June, 2017.
Some three weeks after the general election, life in the Palace of Westminster is returning to what passes for normal in this extraordinary place.
The start of a new Parliament is remarkably similar in feel to the beginning of a new school year. There are the freshly-elected MPs who, like first-formers, are trying to find their feet, forever becoming lost in the labyrinthine corridors and desperately yearning to be allotted an office in which to stow the reams of correspondence that inundate them every day. Their mood is an amalgam of elation and trepidation: nothing they have experienced in their lives so far will have prepared them for this.
Then there are the old hands, greeting colleagues who survived the election, and expressing regret over the loss of others who didn’t make it. The British democratic process is one of the fairest in the world, but it can also be terribly brutal.
This year’s State Opening was, by parliamentary standards, a somewhat muted affair. The Queen was in attendance, but minus her regalia (it was too hot to expect her to wear the Crown) and without Prince Philip, who was in hospital receiving treatment for an infection. The Queen’s Speech itself was relatively short on Bills, indicating the priority that will be given to the Great Repeal Bill and the other legislation needed to effect the process of withdrawal from the European Union. Indeed, the scale of the legislative challenge that Brexit constitutes was underlined by the fact that this will be a two-year parliamentary session.
And so another Parliament begins. It will undoubtedly be dominated by Brexit, but there are also other important issues for MPs to address. There remains the threat of terrorism, highlighted so devastatingly during the election campaign. There is the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, and what is beginning to look like a national scandal over the installation of external cladding on buildings across the country.
And then, as Harold Macmillan observed, there will always be the unforeseen events; and those events will assuredly test Government and MPs alike.
It’s good to be back.