One of the important issues exercising the minds of our MPs at the moment is the little problem that the building in which they debate is in danger of falling down around their ears. This story appeared in a number of sources this week, outlining some of the problems and issues, of which there are many.
(As an aside, one of them is that the Palace of Westminster is apparently seriously infested by rats and mice. Who’d have thought it?)
In most walks of life, the fact that a building which is not fit for purpose is crumbling away would be seen as an opportunity to take a long hard look at the requirements and even the location, and consider a range of options. A legislative chamber which does not contain enough seats for all its members (even after the proposed reductions) is clearly not fit for purpose, the confrontational layout with its lines on the floor to ensure that members remain at least two sword lengths away from each other is quaint but more than a little dated, and the approach to decision-taking which involves the members standing up and walking through doors to be counted is antediluvian.In any rational world, structural problems on this scale would be seen as an opportunity to create a legislative chamber which facilitates efficiency and the making of good legislation. But no chance; the debate about options is limited to whether the building should be evacuated whilst it is repaired, or whether they should continue operating whilst the work is carried out around them – perhaps by making those doing the repairs work around the clock. Tradition – in this case, working in the same way as their predecessors worked in the past – is more important to them than efficiency and effectiveness. But then, as we’ve seen on so many other issues, looking to the past is what they do best.