The angst-ridden last post may well be nature’s way of suggesting that I’ve been spending too much time in my own company and that it is time to get a job again. Actually, the Last Post is usually the signal for a good, long lie down – though probably only if you were in the military and when delivered by a Bb or Eb bugle.
This post will be substantially more frivolous – though I like to think lays out a rather sensible thesis (and one which will NEVER be taken up).
It has been reported that the Houses of Parliament are in a bit of a state – and, unusually, this is referring to the fabric of the buildings rather than our elected (and unelected) representatives. Apparently, it will cost almost £6 billion to put this to rights – which does seem rather a lot of money (it’s around a seventh of an HS2, for instance) and suggests some rather serious neglect over the years. I reckon the Westminster work of Pugin and Barry could be worth a few quid to developers. I’m not suggesting we demolish the existing buildings, but I’m sure they’d be worth a fortune as exclusive riverside apartments or an upmarket hotel. Rather than costing money to maintain them, I reckon we could net a tidy sum by selling them off.
With this nice little nest egg, we could build two brand new chambers and ancillary office space at much lower cost. Despite its appalling extravagance and terrible cost overruns, the new Scottish Parliament only cost around £0.4 billion. However, I think we can do much better than that. I’d say either of the Houses could be slotted into my local branch of Dunelm Mill – a building which I reckon only cost a few thousand quid to build. Even with the costs of fitting out the interior, I’d suggest that by using retail or light industrial park units we could knock up a new parliament for significantly less than £10 million – and there would be plenty of onsite parking.
As we are starting from scratch, it seems lunacy to build the new parliament in London with its sky-high property prices and high costs of labour and living. I suggest we take this opportunity to move somewhere cheaper and more central to the nation. I was thinking about Stoke as a possibility: it has decent road and rail links and I seem to recall they were recently selling houses off for under a fiver. If the State bought a few of these and converted them into flats for MPs, parliamentary expenses should tumble.
Some may worry that this plan wouldn’t work with parliament being so far from the financial and cultural hub of the UK, but many other countries have proved this can be really quite successful: the US and Germany spring quickly to mind. We could also move the key ministries out of London and sell off those buildings as well. At this rate, the deficit will soon be a distant dream and all without having to cut any services (though we could still do with delivering them more efficiently and effectively – so there will be no opportunity for laurel resting in my brave new world). As an added bonus, a new powerhouse for the north (well, north Staffordshire) would be born.
As a good citizen, I offer this wizard wheeze to my country with no hope of personal reward: the knowledge that I will have helped the nation that nurtured me will be payment enough. I keenly anticipate the establishment of my planned Parliament in the Potteries!