In the incendiary world of politics there is one ticking timebomb which is likely to leave more lasting damage than any other. The Palace of Westminster is one of the most iconic buildings anywhere in the world – so famous that it appears on the side of bottles of brown sauce –but it is fast becoming more controversial than at any time in its history.
Forget austerity or our future in Europe, this symbol of Great British democracy could well prove to be the biggest problem in David Cameron’s last five years in high office before he skips off into the sunset.
Six billion quid. It is a such a big figure that it demands its own sentence and that is what the 32 year long renovation of the Houses of Parliament is expected to cost the nation.
It is fair to say that it hasn’t been universally welcomed with some saying the proposal is a perfect example of how the Establishment views its relationship with the general population – with contempt. Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne have already set about implementing the ‘tough’ cuts which they promised before last month’s election but there is anger that they will even consider spending such a significant sum on updating a 200-year-old building which a vocal minority believe is an outdated monument to all that is wrong with our political system.
Parliament will of course get fixed not only because it is a World Heritage Site but to do otherwise would result in a national humiliation which would take us decades to recover from. The important thing for our decision makers to remember is that the electorate are not mugs and we know they have a choice – a report into the crumbling Parliament building states that the renovation cost would be slashed to £3.5bn if all 650 MPs and the thousands of staff upped sticks and left the windy corridors and peeling paintwork behind for six years while work was carried out. Of course there are the traditionalists who believe that democracy is best served if the country is governed from the banks of the River Thames and that £6bn spread out over three decades is not half as expensive as it first stands.
There is talk of moving the whole shouting match across the capital to an alternative venue while some have suggested that Parliament temporarily sits in Birmingham or even Lancaster.
I would go one step further and suggest a travelling Parliament rather like what happened with the England football team while the new Wembley stadium was being built. If Parliament was mobile and was hosted in various major cities such as Brum, Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff and dare I say it, Edinburgh or Glasgow then it would kill dead the accusation that politics is all about Westminster Village.
I won’t hold my breath as tradition and history often trump what is right for a nation. This is a timebomb which will continue to tick.