Monday, January 26, 2009

The Unbearable Etiquette Of Security Passes

I am, as Sid and Doris well know, a great procrastinator as a blogger, apt to store something up for ages only to release it at a moment whose logic is apparent only to myself. Such an experience came on Thursday evening, as I prepared to speak on a motion I was seconding on abuse of retrospective planning applications. With the eyes of the webcasting world about to be set upon me, I found myself pondering one of the great questions of modern councillor etiquette.

To wear, or not to wear?

I was never going to be particularly impressed with the security arrangements of democratic facilities; after all, the first security pass I ever possessed was for a nuclear power station, and they tend to take such matters to another level. Heck, I remember watching Peter Hain taking a tour of the control room at Wylfa and reflecting on the fact that I, an employee of the company, would not have been allowed through the front gate at Wylfa, let alone inside the building.

For the democrats it is, of course, a little different; as an old acquaintance from the Cabinet Office reminded me after my first trip to FPC, we have a right to lobby our MP's and that limits the obstacles that can be put in the way. But those inside can help out by their application of the system, which is where the etiquette comes in.

In Parliament I've always found the divide between the chambers interesting; Lords wear their passes, MP's do not. Cynics will of course consider this a symptom of the "don't you know who I am?" syndrome (or, from the opposite direction, of the "I'm a member of the House Of Lords, as if I'd do anything so grubby as turn up and vote" syndrome) and there may be something to that, but there it was.

Now, of course, I'm the one toting plastic, as it were, and the physical arrangements for using it are similar in County Hall and the Palace Of Westminster, obviating the practical need to wear the pass permanently. The split in use exists too, with some wearing theirs religiously, others shunning it except as a practical item.

As for me? It may not be especially obvious on the webcast, but I wear it and will continue to, if only to show solidarity for my former colleagues and the others around the country for whom that slip of plastic is vital to their safety and security.

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