Originally from the West Country, Jim started his career in the hospitality industry in the Midlands. After holding management positions in several hotels and pubs, he moved to London and started work at the House of Commons in February 2006. First joining on a two month temp contract doing data entry, he went on to work in various roles across the House service, before being appointed Speaker’s Trainbearer in January 2012.
Jim lives in north London with his wife and two children. He enjoys eating out, running, reading and travelling when time allows. He also enjoys most sports, particularly cricket and football, although not always the latter being a long-suffering West Bromwich Albion fan.
The Trainbearer's role
The modern role of trainbearer primarily supports the Speaker in the parliamentary and ceremonial aspects of their role. The trainbearer helps to manage various aspects of parliamentary business including urgent questions and adjournment debates and works closely with colleagues across the House service and government departments to help ensure the smooth running of the Commons Chamber.
Jim is also one of the public faces of the Speaker’s Office, available to provide impartial advice and help to Members across the House. He is easily distinguishable by being one of the few roles to continue to wear full court dress.
The trainbearer is most well-known for their appearance each day that the House sits as part of the Speaker's procession to the Chamber. They are described in the parliamentary bible Erskine May as attending the Speaker ‘on all ceremonial occasions including entering and leaving the House.’
The origins of the role
Little to nothing is known about the origins of the role of trainbearer to the Speaker. References suggest that the role existed at least as early as the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was originally paid from the Speaker’s own pocket, a state of affairs that continued well into the nineteenth century.
In 1825, the then Speaker, Charles Manners Sutton, failed in an attempt to have the funding for the role moved to the public purse. When Speaker’s House in the new Palace of Westminster was being completed in 1857, Speaker Denison specifically requested that a room for the Trainbearer be included in the final plans.
The Speaker's procession
It has been suggested that the historical dangers of the Speakership are the reason for the Speaker's procession. The Speaker leaves Speaker's House at the Westminster Bridge end of the Palace of Westminster preceded by a Bar Doorkeeper, the Serjeant at Arms with the Mace, and followed by the Trainbearer, Chaplain and Secretary.
They undertake a formal procession through the Library Corridor, the Lower Waiting Hall, Central and Members' Lobbies to the Chamber before each sitting of the House.
This route was adopted during the Second World War when the Commons used the House of Lords Chamber after their own had been destroyed. This daily procession has been retained in preference to the shorter pre-war route so that visitors in Central Lobby can witness the ceremony.