The recent guidance issued by the Powers That Be puts us, the assembled unwashed bag-carrying masses, in our place. For too long, say the Refreshment Department, have thirsty staffers got in the way of Boris Johnson trying to buy a doughnut. For too long have politicians had to suffer the tiresome presence of “ordinary people” as they go about their day-to-day business. And for too long have MPs had to queue for the urinals like commoners whilst young upstarts tinkle away merrily in front of them.
It was decided that the time had come to fight back against the encroaching rot of egalitarianism in the House of Commons, and this was done via instructions sent to all staff telling them that they should remember their place: namely, behind any MP who decided they wanted to push in the queue in front of us. After all, who are we to claim an equal footing with those who have been chosen for their positions by a minority of the Sun reading public?
Predictably there was outrage and consternation that the authorities are not treating the noble profession of bag-carrying with the respect it deserves. If we were to disappear overnight, it wouldn’t just be akin to every pavement artist in the UK going on strike: it would be chaos, people!
Without us democracy and, aye! the country would grind to a halt, and here’s why:
Getting in the office
The key-door interface is one that has perplexed Members of Parliament since the dawn of time, and that’s if they’ve actually remembered not to leave the pesky contraption on the 0600 from Leeds. The smart new security settings in Commons’ offices require an extremely complicated insert-key-wait-for-beep action to open the door. Well, MPs seem to find it complicated, and protracted shouting often ensues on any occasion when they are required to undertake this task for themselves.
If we weren’t around to ensure that everything was opened up for them first thing Monday morning, Parliament would resound to the sound of dull thumping and muffled sobbing as six hundred MPs headbutt their office doors in a vain attempt to get inside.
Making the tea
Parliamentarians! The coffee does not just magically appear on your desk; it requires a member of staff to put the kettle on, insert a teaspoon of instant, stir once, add sugar, stir again, and then add sugar as required. Oh yes, and add milk as required.
This ancient art is one that MPs conveniently seem to forget how to undertake as soon as they employ a couple of bosomy young ladies desperate to impress, and although it’s not rocket science, can the Serjeant-at-Arms really take the risk that politicians might try to do this for themselves?
They are the only breed of Man who cannot work a toaster without blowing it up and taking out many of the surrounding offices in the explosion, and those who are sensible will not even try. But this creates yet more problems: because they haven’t actually had to buy their own sandwiches since they arrived in the Palace, they will not know that Portcullis House coffee has to be watered down in the manner of orange squash, unless you want to spend the afternoon experiencing what Keith Richards feels like all the time.
Do the various whips’ offices want to take the risk that their entire Parliamentary party is sailing down the wrong lobby, smacked up to the eyeballs on caffeine?
I think not.
Responding to constituents
The reason staffers look so haggard the entire time is because they act as a human shield between their MP and the madder elements of the local electorate. We spend most of our days trying to persuade the bloke who thinks Neil Armstrong is poisoning his cress plants that MI5 is not eavesdropping on his conversations with God, and hiding the times of our boss’ surgeries so the woman with the scatological obsession does not turn up to wow him with her impressive collection of squirrel turds.
Without us, there is no protection from these annoyances and before they know it, they’ll have spent three hours on the phone to the bloke who faxes every office each Monday with a detailed litany of all the times he caught Moira Stewart spying on him through his TV.
Computers and all the programmes contained therein
It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst the bag-carrying fraternity that there is nothing more troublesome than an MP who thinks that a “website” is where spiders go when they die who, nonetheless, is labouring under the misapprehension that he or she is the Estate’s answer to Bill Gates.
Unfortunately, this group encompasses most politicians.
Leave them alone for long enough and they will manage to wipe all their emails (and probably yours), sign up to every piece of spam you usually manage to filter out of their inboxes so your entire office is inundated for six months afterwards with emails inviting you all to enlarge various pieces of your anatomy, and crash the Parliamentary network because they saw a flashing box that said “CLICK HERE FOR FREE PRIZE!” And did.
Where’s my diary?
He’s left his version on the Tube. Where the hell are the magic replacements that he’s usually magically provided with, as if by magic?
To the barricades! No, no – you go first, please.
In light of all this evidence, it only remains to ask all those who profess to love democracy: are we really as expendable as these regulations infer?
Well, are we?
Added: 16 October 2007 by Dean Trench