Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Lines and swords

There is little doubt that the facilities currently ‘enjoyed’ by our elected representatives in London fall short of requirements in a number of ways.  Nor can there be any real argument about the need to provide proper facilities for anyone doing any job of work.  And however cheap any refurbishment was, there would inevitably be an outcry from the usual suspects (I’m sure that the Taxpayers’ Alliance are drafting their press release if they haven’t already issued it) against our MPs spending money ‘on themselves’.
In principle, I see no reason to oppose a reasonable level of expenditure on bringing facilities up to date and making them fit for purpose.  However, if I understand what is being proposed, it is that up to £3 billion should be spent on refurbishing the facilities and leaving them as outdated and unfit for purpose as they are currently.
Even if Cameron’s proposals to reduce the number of MPs were to be successful, there is still not enough room in the legislature for all of our legislators to sit.  Getting, and retaining, a seat for some debates depends on turning up early and being prepared to do a little pushing and shoving – of those on your own side. 
The whole chamber is designed around a confrontational approach to politics – even down to the carefully laid out lines to ensure that government and opposition are always at least two swords’ lengths apart.  And when it comes to voting, particularly on a series of complex amendments, the members have to stand up and walk around in circles, sometimes for hours.
Who in  his right mind would design a chamber for a legislature which did not contain enough space to contain all of the members?  Yet as I understand it what is being proposed is that whilst the building will be completely renewed internally, the basic design and size will remain unchanged.
It shows how easily people get sucked into ‘tradition’, and ‘the way things work around here’ that the biggest complaint raised so far seems to be that access to the bars and tearooms will be impossible during the refurbishment project.
Change of Personnel blogs on the same question here; I cannot but agree.
Faced with both opportunity and good reason – i.e. the need to do some serious work on the current facilities – to make changes which would ensure a parliamentary chamber fit for use in a 21st century democracy, it seems as though our elected representatives will actually decide to expend huge sums of money on maintaining and updating a facility which will remain as unfit for purpose at the end as it was at the beginning.  Freshly painted lines to maintain the two swords’ separation isn't really what I'd call 'upgrading'.

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