Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Move Out Now
Earlier this week The Times reported that politicians are still prevaricating on an issue unusually close to their hearts: that of the future of the Palace of Westminster. That they are still failing to make this remarkably easy decision does not bode well for the extraordinarily complex issue of Brexit negotiations, especially as they are supposed to be concluded in just 2 years.
For years now, decades really, we have known that the venerable Houses of Parliament are in need of a fundamental refurbishment, one that requires more than merely the usual British make do and mend approach. The building is falling down, crumbling, is more full of holes than Swiss cheese or a Labour policy document, is rat and rodent infested, full of asbestos and is in danger of catastrophic failure.
Yet The Times reported that they are now planning on delegating the issue to a delivery authority to make the final decision because our elected representatives have proven incapable of doing so themselves. This is self serving cowardice of the highest order. The building needs drastic and urgent repairs. This dereliction of duty risks rendering this much love building derelict.
The problem is that MPs cannot make up their minds which of the fantastically expensive schemes to opt for. Should it be the one that would see workmen and MPs and peers share the corridors of power while work takes place around them? Or should they simply move out and get the job done more quickly? Oh and the latter option, incidentally, whilst still eye wateringly expensive, is much less costly that the former to the tune of billions. It would also, of course, be much quicker.
So what is the problem you might justifiably wonder. The same MPs who enjoy grandstanding about waste and excess in everyone else and especially amongst those who spend public money ought to sign off on the cheaper scheme and move out pronto. The problem however lies with a bunch of crusties and other entitled folk who hate the idea of having to move out of this wonderful building that they love working in for some shoddy temporary arrangement. They also fear that if they move out they may never be allowed back in again, a ridiculous excuse given that they are the people who would make such a decision. Parliament, after all, is sovereign.
But even if they are right and the building is more decrepit than we fear what is the alternative? Carry on working in it until it falls down? Let this UNESCO Heritage site fall into the Thames because the mother of parliaments could not face a tough decision? That would at least be a cruel irony we could all appreciate. Well tough. It is not your building any more than it is your money. It is our building and our history, our past as well as our future. It is not for any of you to endanger that future for short term vanity and a desire to continue to work in a beautiful if shoddy building rather than in something constructed more like a film set. Anyway, given the sums of money being spoken of they could rebuild the place from scratch. Only Big Ben itself (the bell rather than the tower as any political geek will tell you) could not be properly restored with the right amount of dedication and money.
But if this doesn't convince any of you then let me offer this argument. Only 2 weeks ago a policeman was stabbed to death as parliament came under attack. Part of the reason that this happened is because modern security has had to be accommodated within a Victorian building in an area that is busy and always vulnerable. A refurbishment offers the opportunity to revamp the security as well as the facilities, to bring it properly into the 21st century and not only half way in with the gate ajar.
This really isn't a difficult decision to make at all and should have been made by now. And it presents an opportunity to revamp more than merely the fabric of the building and its security. Do we really want to pay out to house the House of Lords in temporary accommodation or would now be an opportune moment to abolish the upper house while we are at it. Let's refurbish our constitution as well as our parliament.