This is a post I did a few months ago, just before the General Election in the UK. I think its appropriate to publish this again for interest. Enjoy
There is a general election being held in two months time in the UK. It marks the culmination of 5 years of the most savage years of cuts to services, jobs, pay, employment rights at the expense of the poorest in this country. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy win for any party and the usual collusion by the media in trying to influence the outcome is not going to succeed this time round.
People have come to realise the realities of the world and it’s not how we’ve been told it is, the reality is very different, much starker than we’d been led to believe.
Something the UK has laid claim to for a long time is that of history and tradition. The British like to wrap themselves up in this magical cloak and claim almost exclusivity to these twin preserves of history and tradition as though nobody else has these things which is a complete fabrication of course. Other countries also have history and traditions, they just don’t keep going on about it. I remember a few years ago I was showing a Greek friend of mine around the older parts of the City of London and pointing out areas of interest, I mentioned a particular part being quite old; my friend said “Really, how old?” I said about four hundred years old. She said “Oh, that’s quite young, it’s no time at all”. I realised what she meant and said “Of course, nowhere is as old as in Greece!” and we both laughed.
I recently watched a documentary about the House of Commons and in the first programme they film makers concentrated on the various traditions of the House of Commons and how it is run and who runs the various areas. Much of it was simply an excuse for grown men to get the dressing up box out and re-enact some event that would try to give some kind of gravitas to what they were doing. At the same time the documentary also made clear that the actual building of the House of Commons was falling apart and was no longer fit for the age we now live in.
The problem with the House of Commons is that is was built to look as though it has been there for millenia when it is only 140 years old. It was built in a vastly different era when life was worlds away from what it is today. I think this kind of gothic architecture only encourages this kind of childish playing by adult men who have nothing better to do and gives an infantile impression of the UK as a country that is incapable of being adult, mature and taking part in the modern world. It also encourages the “Westminster Bubble” mentality so prevalent among members of parliament.
If the House of Commons is truly in need of using taxpayers money to fund restoration upward of tens of millions of pounds, it might be better to completely reshape this institution to something more fitting of the modern age.
At the last parliament there was a huge scandal of MPs expenses and what they were being used for. Some were being used to pay mortgages on second homes, even first homes, gardening, duck houses and such like. I have a solution to this problem. The House of Commons should be knocked down and rebuilt completely. This would be cheaper than trying to make an old building fit to the requirements of today’s world and the next 50 or or so years and could be tailor-made with wi-fi and internet access, clocking in and out facililties for MPs so the public could know which MPs have attended for work and such like much more easily.
Nearby are a couple of streets of old apartments which, no doubt our greedy MPs and local council would like to sell to some developer for an astronomical sum of money. I would propose this is purchased by the State for the use of MPs who have constituencies outside of London in the same way universities have halls of residence for their students. The old apartments are knocked down and new ones erected in their place with self-contained apartments of 2-3 bedrooms and all modern conveniences. These could be easily maintained and kept up by the MPs. As they would be completely new buildings they would not require extensive alterations and any decoration felt necessary would only draw an allowance of £5,000 which is plenty. This area is less than a 10 minute walk, yes, walk to the House of Commons, no worries about getting stuck in traffic or spending money on taxis to get home. This is based on the same idea as universities having halls of residence for their students. When the academic year is finished the students leave but the halls of residence remain except in this case, when an MP loses his/her seat, they vacate the apartment which remains property of the state.
It seems that MPs think expenses are not just something they are allowed, but they are owed and should take advantage of to enrich themselves. Voters are entitled to scrutinise those in parliament sent to represent them, particularly as MPs are very keen on having voters held accountable for their actions. What is sauce for the goose is certainly sauce for the gander.