Monday, July 04, 2022

The House of Commons is falling down

Embed from Getty Images

 In fact the whole of the Palace of Westminster is. Here's Rowan Moore writing in The Observer yesterday:

In every direction stretch uncountable kilometres of wires and pipes, fronds of high-voltage cables, a Terry Gilliam cosmos of whistling and buzzing devices, vapour, puddles, stifling heat, gaffer tape, silver foil, warning signs, conduits, refrigerating units and extractor fans, long lengths of tubing that are – literally – rat runs. There are old paint tins to catch more drips, plastic bins full of used coffee cups, cardboard boxes, discarded cable trays, retired office chairs. There is a Victorian, steam-powered sewage ejector. There is asbestos.

A ring of handsome cast-iron pillars, nicknamed "the bandstand", informs me of the presence of something majestic overhead; it helps to support the lofty lanterned octagon of the central lobby of the Houses of Parliament. Around the lobby extend chambers and stairs and corridors as intricate as the mechanical basement, but more refined: fan vaults and tracery, stained glass, frescoes, encaustic tiles, linen-fold panelling, architectural devices copied from chapter houses and cathedrals, medievalising paintings of knights and maidens, scenes of battles on land and sea.

Yes, as Moore says, Britain’s democracy is being conducted above what resembles a huge and toxic bomb.

That in itself makes Westminster a great metaphor for the state of British politics. But there's more.

Our politicians there seem unable to accept there is a serious problem or to agree the spending needed to put it right and that parliament will have to meet elsewhere for some years.

Among the deniers are reported to be Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Speaker.

Meanwhile, Westminster's trade unions have complained that political parties' unwillingness to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct by MPs mean it is not a safe place to work.

Our political system is so deep in decay than it cannot exert itself to stave off disaster.

No comments: