Like a tongue searching for an absent tooth, I keep wondering if I’m missing anything from my two decades as a lobby hack. Friends, of course, and perhaps the vast, grey field of sloping slate as seen from the Times’s parliamentary office. That empty and silent space, the roof of Westminster Hall, seemed austere and indifferent, a mental refuge from the babble beneath and within. The opposite aspect, towards the crumbling guts of the Palace of Westminster, elicits more complicated memories.
I arrived in the press gallery aged 30 to take a job as Westminster correspondent for a clutch of provincial papers. On my first day my new colleagues took me to tea at 4 p.m. in the dining room. There was also a bar with its own barflies and a barman named Clive.