On Westminster & friendships

Please log in or register to like posts.

Hello. If you’re going to read this you should probably read that first — I obviously disagree with it, since I’m clearly writing a response to it, but it is an interesting piece of writing and it did make me think.

For context, I was also the one who spotted Laura Pidcock’s quote about refusing to befriend Tories in an otherwise uncontroversial interview and brought it to the attention of politics Twitter so I do feel a degree of responsibility.

Ben is right; Westminster is an alien, closed off, suffocating place to work at if it isn’t the kind of environment you’re used to.

For what it’s worth, I grew up in France, far away from media and political circles, then moved to the UK and did a journalism degree at the enjoyable but ultimately not great university of Westminster, started writing about politics almost by accident, and have never been part of the lobby. A natural insider, I am not.

This does mean that I agreed with a lot in Ben’s assessment of what Westminster is like: the culture is intensely alienating, it is an old boys’ club, the habits and rituals make no sense if you weren’t born and bred in SW1, some people there will actively work to make sure that you don’t feel welcome.

I also agree with his point on the meaning of friendships; we can tend to forget as we grow older, but a real friend isn’t someone you see for a drink once every full moon and when the planets are aligned.

A real friend is someone you can bring into your home; someone you can share several bottles of wine with and talk about life, death, and everything in between. A real friend isn’t someone you only talk about work with.

While we agree on the state of things, the conclusion I’ve always drawn from the very nature of Westminster is an entirely different one.

I’m a journalist so what my private political opinions are don’t matter here, but I certainly am friends with several people in and around Parliament with whom I agree on little.

We tend to avoid talking about policy, in fact, as both sides know it will normally end in a shouting match that will change no-one’s mind.

Come to think of it, we even rarely see each other outside of Westminster, and the pubs around it — our friendships are geographically delineated.

What they still are, however, is friends. We’re friends because our chosen workplace is weird and hostile and unwelcoming. We’re friends because none of us came from the sort of background which meant that we were expected to end up in SW1 at some point or another.

We’re friends because most of the time we have to put on a brave face while desperately trying to figure out where we fit in this whole damn thing, and whether we’ll actually make it any further than where we are.

We’ll meet up and drink and gossip and share anecdotes about the madness of it all, and try not to mention any of the things we know we disagree about.

Unlikely friendships don’t just happen because the strange village we inhabit reinforces shallow relationships; they exist because we need them to go forward.

I might not know every embarrassing detail of the teenage years of my Westminster friends, and I probably wouldn’t call most of them if I needed a shoulder to cry on because of some boy trouble, but that doesn’t cheapen the nature of our friendship.

Like emperor penguins huddling for warmth when the Antarctic gets too cold even for them, we’ll merrily get drunk at the Red Lion every other Tuesday to briefly feel like we belong after all.

It might be, as Ben wrote, a dysfunctional approach to living life, but I’m unsure I would have it any other way.


Already reacted for this post.


Nobody liked ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *