The £150 million cost of refurbishing the royal palace is small beer, of course, compared to the estimates for refurbishing the Palace of Westminster which were floated last week, but there is nevertheless a common thread. In both cases, it is proposed to spend large sums of money on repairing and patching up old buildings which are not suitable for purpose now and will still not be suitable for purpose when the work is completed. Doing them up a bit as tourist attractions is one thing, but pretending that the result will be buildings which are fit for the 21st century is simply delusional.
But, in another analogy with ‘our’ heritage, pretending that delusion is reality seems to be mainstream accepted consensus. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people who walk in through the doors of the Palace of Westminster become wedded to the place with all its peculiar foibles and arcane practices, and end up believing that it’s the only possible way of doing things.
In any rational world, the fact that Parliament is falling apart would be seen as an opportunity to find or design a building which actually had enough seats and office space for all the members, and which enabled them to vote in seconds at their seats rather then spending hours walking in circles so that they can be counted like a farmer counts his sheep. (And a building fit for purpose would raise an awful lot of questions about other processes and procedures as well.)
A crumbling royal palace should be a good opportunity to ask whether a family which actually lives in a nine-room apartment really needs a 775 room palace (to say nothing of the other palaces). Or why a largely ceremonial monarchy with no real power over anything needs so many staff and offices.
It is, though, in the nature of ‘our’ heritage, jerry-built with shoddy materials as it is, to never ask such impertinent questions, let alone expect our rulers to answer them. Clinging on to the past is all they seem to know, even when it’s literally collapsing around them.