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Wednesday September 13, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

To hire staff, the Evie Pinching award, first duties of new Switzerland ambassador + we discover MPs ski against their Swiss counterparts.



And believe it or not the British MPs are currently holders of the cup as the British-Swiss Parliamentary Ski Team battled it out on the slopes of Davos last January.

They will be defending their title from the 2nd to 5th January next year.

But more of that piece of British sporting success later.

Now, in my former life I worked as a journalist in BBC TV News for 22 loyal years.

Well, mostly loyal (I have always had a rebellious streak).

A large number of those years were at Westminster and I paced the corridors many times.

St Stephen's Walk on the way to the Central Lobby looked as beautiful as ever.

PlanetSKI in ParliamentPlanetSKI in Parliament
















There were a few recognisable MPs milling around - Dennis Skinner, Tim Fallon and Paul Boateng.

I glanced over to the fixed BBC live camera point in the Central Lobby and there was a familiar figure fiddling with wires.

"How's the foot Giles?" I enquired.

BBC cameraman Giles Woolerton became a news story in his own right when Jeremy Corbyn's car ran over him during the last election campaign.

Giles out of actionGiles in/out of action















And then my old mate Norman Smith came round the corner muttering to himself.

It was 12.58 and he was about to go live into the One O'clock News and was trying to collect his thoughts.

He is probably the best TV and Radio political reporter in the business in my opinion.

I never remember his job title Assistant Political Editor.... Chief Political Correspondent.


He graces the airwaves with immediate analysis and he never pulls his punches.

"Come and work for PlanetSKI?" I mouthed to him as he was about to go on air.

He gave me the thumbs up out of camera shot and turned to address the nation.

Norman Smith of the BBCNorman Smith of the BBC














First up in the Terrace Dining Room of the House of Commons was the announcement of the Evie Pinching Award.

Evie Pinching was perhaps the most successful British skier.

She was a double world champion in 1936 taking home two gold medals. In the same year she came 8th in the Winter Olympics.

The Ski Club of Great Britain makes the award to a promising young athlete with emerging talent.

This year the award was presented in association with Switzerland Tourism.

In 2016 Menna Fitzgerald had the honour and in 2015 the winner was Katie Ormerod.

Both have gone on to World Cup success and are serious medal hopes at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2018.

The award this year went to the young moguls skier, Thomas Gerken-Schofield.

He received the award from Ski Club chairman, Rob Crowder and the former GB Team skier, Chemmy Alcott.

PlanetSKI in ParliamentRob, Thomas and Chemmy
















"It is fabulous to win this award and will give me even more motivation to succeed. The £1,000 prize money will also go on much-need equipment," he told me after he picked up the award.

He brought his family with him to celebrate the moment.

PlanetSKI in ParliamentFamily affair















Next up we heard from the new Ambassador of Switzerland H.E Mr Alexandre Fasel.

Politics and mountains were on his mind at his first official function since he moved to his new job in London eight days ago.

PlanetSKI in ParliamentAndrew Rossindell MP and H.E Mr Alexandre Fasel
















He meant political business as he addressed the assembled Members of Parliament (and me - the sole journalist invited along).

"Brexit means we have, more than ever, to maintain a close economic and political relationship. We need continuing bi-lateral agreements and we must not fall over a cliff edge on Brexit Day. We need to enhance our political and economic relationship between our two countries. We will watch on how you project yourself as a global power and it is very important to have a strong UK."

And then he got down to serious business.

"It is the British we have to thank as they showed us that the mountains must not be feared but be respected. No Swiss person would ever have thought of climbing the mountains let alone coming down on skis but it was you British eccentrics that showed us the way. And for that we thank you."

So, did you know that each year British MPs and their Swiss counterparts challenge each other to an annual ski race?

No, neither did I.

It has been going for 62-years and before you say it is a glorified jolly (the phrase 'chairlift diplomacy' comes to mind) I should point out that the members have to pay their own way and it is not funded out of the public purse.

"It started after World War Two as a way of encouraging dialogue and has taken place in the Swiss resort of Davos ever since," said the outgoing Captain Dame Caroline Spelman to me.

She is stepping down and leaves on a high as the Brits have won for the last 2-years.

There is, though, a handicap system.

"The Swiss have won it many more times than us in the last six decades and more but we have done well in recent years," Dame Caroline added.

All too soon the event came to a end.

And it was time for one last photo with Thomas, another man who is not often seen in a suit.

But at least one of us scrubs up well (and it's not me).

PlanetSKI in ParliamentPlanetSKI in Parliament















Congratulations Thomas and best of luck for the season ahead.

Norman was no-where to be seen as I Ieft.... the job offer, though, remains open.

He is rather a good climber too.

PlanetSKI in ParliamentPlanetSKI in Parliament
















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