Many Bars Where MPs Can Raise a Pint of Order

By Letts, Quentin | The Evening Standard (London, England), June 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Many Bars Where MPs Can Raise a Pint of Order


Letts, Quentin, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: QUENTIN LETTS

THERE are Thames views, tidal quantities of cheap beer and no shortage of bar bores. In one of the great misconceptions of our times, Westminster Palace is best known as a Parliament, but for many, it is just one big boozer.

The place has 13 restaurants and eight permanent bars and, in the past eight months, beer consumption (Federation Ale at pound sterling1.60 a subsidised pint) has doubled.

Our legislators now hose back 2,500 pints of bitter a month, inspiring Rochford and Southend East's Tory MP Sir Teddy Taylor to complain about the "multitude of drinking dens" emptying the Commons Chamber. The drinking trend, said the teetotaller, was "very sad, the start of a great tragedy".

Does Tony Blair ever look in for a quick one? The Prime Minister has been seen only once in the main Labour hangout, Strangers' Bar, staying just long enough to take a few sips from a half pint and ask one of his party's notorious boozers: "What are you doing here?" The reply: "Drinking, of course." We offer the following guide to the Palace's many houses of liquid refreshment.

Strangers' Bar

"Westminster's best clearing house for gossip" or "a ghastly working men's club", depending on who you speak to. Known as "the Kremlin", such is its popularity with Labour MPs. Ran out of champagne when Peter Mandelson resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary. In good weather, drinks can be taken onto the Commons Terrace (which, in addition, has its own cafeteria).

Regulars: Labour "ladettes" Helen Clark and Jane Griffiths. Lib-Dem leader Charles Kennedy (good customer).

Occasional visits from John Prescott, Gordon Brown.

Annie's Bar

Named after a pre-war barmaid, it is open to MPs and lobby reporters.

Airless and so small the pool table does not really fit. Some say it has a curse. …

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