State Opening of Parliament

What rich pageantry the State Opening of Parliament is.

I would challenge anyone who attended Tuesday’s event not to be moved by such a dignified and colourful occasion.

It’s part of our island history, which we ignore at our peril.

The last time I attended a State Opening, I was street lining with my regiment, a very different task and not always an easy one if the weather was hot.

In full dress uniform, you soon begin to perspire!

However, on this occasion, I was able to watch the royal procession pass the House of Commons on its way to the Sovereign’s Entrance at about 11.15am.

Then, at 11.25am we all filed into the Chamber before walking to the ‘other place’, as the Lords is sometimes known, to listen to the Queen deliver her speech.

Afterwards, we MPs moved back to the Chamber, before breaking for lunch.

Then, at 2.30pm, we reconvened in the Chamber, where the gloves came off.

With Labour’s Harriet Harman attacking our plans, and David Cameron assaulting Labour’s record, as well as promoting ours, the afternoon was a wonderful spectacle of political ding-dong.

The atmosphere in a packed Chamber was electric. Both speeches were met with roars of approval and cries of anguish from the two sides.

I sat on the green benches just soaking it all up. The Chamber is far smaller than you’d imagine, and the carefully crafted words and sound-bites dart from side to side like machine gun fire.

The opposing benches, all fired up, were not in a mood for compromise.

David Cameron stood his ground well, batting off asides, derision and interruptions with aplomb.

When he did give way – as tradition demands - he did so with grace, coming back on the various points with razor-sharp wit.

If anyone thinks they could stand at the Despatch Box and take on a hostile crowd of Labour MPs, then think again. It’s not a job for the faint-hearted. 

As I drove back to Portland to attend a public meeting, I knew I’d experienced something very special.