Yesterday was a privilege. I blogged earlier on the important meat of the financial education debate in the Commons. Yet I wanted to jot some notes down about the experience too.
I’ve been to view the Commons debating before, but this felt different. Justin Tomlinson MP, who I’ve been working on this with for around a year, was proposing the motion to get financial education on the curriculum on the back of the e-petition. He’d arranged that I could sit in the part of the public gallery not separated by the security glass screen.
As that’s positioned directly above some of the MPs, it feels like you’re within the theatre and I was surprised to find myself receiving nods of welcome from some members in the chamber, and later the Minister. This left me with warring instincts. Of course I was there as a passive audience member, but the atmosphere does suck you in to want to take part.
Within their speeches, the MPs were again very kind about MSE and my involvement, and more importantly the real public swell of opinion behind the 100,000 signatures. John Redwood came in specifically to note that he’d received so many letters from constituents (go MoneySavers!) that he wanted to note his support.
The debate itself is a fantastic free show – I highly recommend it. As well as the serious stuff, the MPs’ good natured bickering and banter is hilarious. The highlight was a quote-off with members intervening to swap relevant phrases from Dickens, Shakespeare and Benjamin Franklin (though I suspect it’s a ‘you had to be there’).
The most perverse moments were when MPs quoted me (though of course for facts not eloquence). At one point the Shadow Education Minister Kevin Brennan quoted my "for twenty years we’ve educated out youth into debt when they go to university but never educated them about debt," only to be cut-off by another MP mentioning my explanation of student finance on the Politics Show a few weeks ago.
It ain’t easy not to speak
The Financial Education in Schools campaign is my passion and I’ve been campaigning on it for years, so I must admit when questions were flung at the proposing MPs, it was all I could do to stop myself from yelling out an answer (I’m not that good at sitting for five hours without saying anything, as those who’ve seen my broadcasts will attest).
This peaked as Mark Garnier said something akin to "What we need to do is use real questions such as if you borrow £125, at 29% interest over 6 months, what would it be? Now I’m not Martin Lewis, just a former investment banker, so I’m not going to approach that one".
At which point Andrew Bingham raised a ‘go on then, can you?’ eyebrow at me. Not good when you’re soemone as competitive as me, sitting by yourself with no one to talk to. I was about to answer when I remembered hours earlier I’d been told that it was important not to speak in that gallery, so slammed my jaw shut.
I later asked the Sergeant at Arms who was stationed by me (each section of the gallery has its own) what would’ve happened if I had answered. His answer "I’m afraid I would’ve needed to escort you off the premises sir."