2 hours ago

By Brian WheelerPolitical reporter

Sarah Smith Sarah SmithSarah Smith

Labour MP Sarah Smith in the family room at the House of Commons

“It’s finally dropped with me, what I have done.”

Steffan Aquarone sounds more than a little over-awed by his first experience of sitting in the House of Commons chamber.

“It was all a bit hypothetical before,” says the newly-elected Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk. “But sitting in the chamber it suddenly felt very real.”

And his first impression of that chamber?

“It was much smaller than I imagined!”

At least he managed to get a seat.

There are so many Labour MPs on the government benches there is not enough space for them all in the chamber. Dozens had to sit in the public gallery to watch Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s re-election as Speaker and the ceremonial opening speeches by new Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer and all the opposition party leaders.

“I actually ended up standing right near the doors because it was so busy,” says Sarah Smith, one of the new Labour intake.

“It was just an amazing sense of excitement for what’s to come,” she says, of her first taste of life on the famous green benches.

The new MP for Hyndburn, in Lancashire, seems just as excited that her four-month-old son Eli, who came down with her to London, is getting to experience all of this.

Won’t he be too young to remember his first day in Parliament?

“I’ve got some pretty cool photos!” she laughs.

Ms Smith has recruited friends and family to take care of Eli while she is in the Commons chamber – and is hoping to get a place for him in a local nursery, as Parliament’s in-house creche is already oversubscribed.

She seems unphased by the challenge.

“I think it’s demonstrating for women that it is possible to do it. It’s not easy but there are ways through this.

“It’s important that we have mothers, parents, carers etc all being represented here.”

House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle addresses the Commons from the Speaker's chairHouse of Commons

One of the first jobs of the new Parliament was to choose a new Speaker, with Sir Lindsay Hoyle re-elected

It’s easy to spot the newbie MPs on their first day – they are all wearing green and white striped lanyards. Some look only slightly less bewildered than the parties of schoolchildren being shown round Parliament.

There is a lot to take in.

They all began Tuesday in the Commons chamber for an off-camera briefing on how it all works – before being herded upstairs to committee rooms for security briefings and party meetings.

And then it was back into the chamber for their first taste of actual parliamentary proceedings.

Some, like Liberal Democrat Angus Macdonald – who became the final MP to be declared a winner on Saturday – had never set foot in the building before.

“From the outside it’s exquisite, from the inside it’s even more so,” says the new MP for Inverness, Skye and West Ross-Shire.

“I consider it such an honour to be here. If we had been moved to a modern building for the refurbishment it would have been a real shame for us new kids.”

Peter Prinsley Peter PrinsleyPeter Prinsley

Peter Prinsley ran into a former patient on his first day

Some of the new arrivals have worked for years to become an MP.

Others, like Peter Prinsley, the new Labour MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, were last-minute selections who had not expected to win at the start of the campaign.

One of the first people Mr Prinsley, an ear nose and throat surgeon, bumped into when he arrived was Paul, a member of the House of Commons security staff, who happens to be one of his former patients.

“I think my day job is going to have to change, frankly,” Mr Prinsley told the BBC.

“It’s a bit of a difficult job to change suddenly. So it’s going to take me a little while to reorganise things.”

Like all the new MPs, he will have to make sense of Parliament’s unique geography.

“The hardest part of this job, when you first get here, is finding your way around. You find you get lost – a lot,” says Reform UK MP Lee Anderson.

The party’s leader Nigel Farage says it is down to Mr Anderson – who defected from the Tories earlier this year – to ensure the five Reform MPs don’t.

“They’ll soon settle in,” he says.

House of Commons Reform UK leader Nigel Farage stands to speak in the CommonsHouse of Commons

Nigel Farage was elected as an MP on his eighth attempt

The sight of Mr Farage on the back row of the opposition benches – after so many years of trying to get elected to the UK Parliament – will take some getting used to.

Another striking image is former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, now an independent, on the opposition benches alongside Mr Farage and the Conservatives.

But at least these two are familiar faces.

Sir Lindsay has the task of learning the names and faces of more than 300 new people over the next few weeks, so he can call them to speak in debates.

The Speaker’s staff are testing him – and competing against each other on a quiz game they have found online with audio clips and pictures of all 650 MPs.

Sir Lindsay is also a regular in the members’ tea room, where he can meet the new arrivals face-to-face.

He told the BBC: “I am so proud of the warm welcome House of Commons staff have given this record number of new MPs to Parliament.

“Each Member has been assigned a buddy to help them navigate the labyrinth of staircases, rooms and passages across the estate; secured them laptops, guided them to security briefings – and generally made them feel at home.

“The buzz has been incredible. I am looking forward to getting to know my new colleagues, and – with the help of my team – learning everyone’s names.”

The new MPs will soon get over their sense of awe at their new work place. All speak of their determination to get on with the job and make a difference for their constituents.

The sense of being all in it together – as they are shuttled from one briefing to the next – will no doubt disappear too, as normal hostilities resume in the Commons.

But this is one day none of them will forget in a hurry.

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