It is a truth universally acknowledged in Westminster that the sixth floor of Portcullis House has the best offices in Parliament. More like penthouses than offices, they’re each accessed from the fifth floor via an internal staircase and have windows facing both sides of the building, over the atrium and out over London. There are only six of them. Two face north over the Whitehall rooftops, one faces across St James Park to Buckingham Palace, two face the Palace of Westminster (Gordon Brown has a one of these). The best and last remained unfilled. Considered one of the very best offices in Parliament, office 603 sports a magnificent vista over the River Thames towards the City.
Formerly the domain of Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, she fought fiercely to keep it – a little greedily as she has a spanking Secretary of State’s suite in Gwydyr House. Eventually she was forced to squeeze into one of the ministerial offices in the Palace. Her parliamentary staff were cast wailing from the Garden of Eden into a subterranean hole beneath the Chamber. By this time, the very best office in the Commons was the very last to be allocated, tormenting the aspirations of exiled Labour Cabinet Ministers and thwarted Tory Shadow Ministers alike.
He might have been vetoed by Nick Clegg from taking his opposition brief in Government, but former Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois has done his masters proud as Accommodation Whip. Everything he can do to keep the coalition together and therefore the Government in office has been done. Where could 603, this ultimate flagship of Whips’ patronage, most effectively be bestowed?
Should a LibDem should be allowed to ascend to the sixth floor for the first time, to bind that flakey crew to Osborne’s Budget with golden fetters? Naturally it would have to be one of the few LibDem MPs not sitting on the Treasury bench, to buy off potential disaffection as their leaders’ compromise in office. And among that elite band, who is the most influential and unreliable? In the end there was only one choice. Perhaps Simon Hughes’ support for the Coalition will be a little more steadfast, now that he can look down on his constituency from his desk.
UPDATE: An eagle-eyed bag-carrying co-conspirator points out that Simon Hughes has really been making himself at home recently. No content with the best office, he has also taken to parking his specially converted taxi in conspicuous places around the estate. Don’t you forget about him…