“I feel amazing. I feel like a movie star. I feel a million dollars! I have come a long way.” William Herbert, 57, is sitting on the roof of the Houses of Parliament, looking the bee’s knees in his new suit, reflecting on a most unusual day. “I never thought I’d be here. To be honest, this is a dream. How many people in the world get to see the Queen? It’s just fantastic. Me seeing the Queen is like a fairy story.”
With a little less of the usual pomp and ceremony, not to mention certainty and stability, the Queen’s Speech marked the state opening of parliament last week. Alongside the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, two Houses packed with politicians and peers plus dignitaries galore, was The Big Issue vendor William. He took his place in the Royal Gallery, a guest of The Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, as The Queen delivered her rather brief speech.
“It was so good to be in the same room as The Queen. Bless her, she looked the picture I always knew her to be. She was smaller than I thought though. So was Prince Charles. I was about 10 feet away. Everyone was Lady Blah Blah and Lord Whatever. I felt like royalty. I felt like one of the Lords myself. Everyone was so nice and polite.
I feel amazing. I feel like a movie star. I feel a million dollars!
“And now look at me – I’m sitting here on the roof of the Houses of fucking Parliament! How fantastic is that? My pals won’t believe me.” William’s pals won’t be the only ones. After the ceremony, Lord Bird said: “When I told people a Big Issue vendor was here, they were astonished. I have known William for more than 20 years. He has used The Big Issue to rebuild his life and I am really, really happy that he is here. William has made today for me.
"I can honestly say this is one of the nicest days I've had in a long time."
— The Big Issue (@BigIssue) June 21, 2017
“Symbolically it is important that he is here. We brought a group of Big Issue vendors here last year and will be doing that more, having conferences, inviting homeless people. If it inspires people to come here and use the House, it is great. And it gives me the chance to make a load of noise about why we have a system that conspires to keep people poor. My mission is to get them to put poverty prevention at the very heart of government policy.”