When I was studying for my A Level in Politics, the female members of my class were treated to a trip to London for a tour around the Houses of Parliament (including lunch in the Lord’s restaurant, meeting the Chief Whip and sitting in on a debate) courtesy of the Emily Davidson Society.
To pass the time on a 3 hour train journey from Newcastle, my friends and I decided to try to name all 50 states of the USA. What we thought would be an easy game turned into an epic all day struggle to remember the last few states (it was not until that night when I was heading home from Newcastle that I eventually came up with the last one – Idaho). The main bone of contention as we exited the train in London was whether Washington DC counted as a state. This was in the days prior to smartphones and so we had no way of verifying our differing opinions, and simply had to bat this question back and forth to ourselves throughout the day, whilst trying to come up with the remaining states which would settle the question one way or the other.
So it was that as I was standing on the terrace at the Lord’s bar, looking out over the Thames with London before me and the Palace of Westminster behind me, I had Washington DC on my mind.
“I bet this is much better than the US Congress,” I said to one of my friends. My politics teacher was standing behind me at the time, and asked me why.
“Well, there is just so much history here, isn’t there?” I said. “Congress will be so new and modern compared to this.”
He smiled at me. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I think Congress will be pretty impressive”.
I never really thought about this conversation again until years later as I stood at the top of the Washington Monument, looking along the National Mall towards the Capitol building. The UK Parliament may edge Congress for the length of history, but as I stood there admiring the view, I realised Mr Robson was absolutely right – Congress is pretty damn impressive.