The iconic Palace of Westminster has to undergo massive repairs and Parliament has agreed to move out for up to six years. While I personally think it sends the wrong message to the wider world (one of national decline- leaving the nation’s most recongnisable landmark) to move out, the Houses of Parliament must be repaired so that they can survive into the future. The Houses of Parliament represent British parliamentary democracy and I hope it will be the home of Parliament in 1000 years time.
It would be ludicrous to take Chuka Umuna’s suggestion (which I imagine a Corbyn Labour government would do) and move out of the Houses of Parliament and turn the building into a museum. Parliament is iconic and is a proud symbol for Great Britain the world over. That being said, MPs must be good stewards of the taxpayers money and thus the decision to represent the palace was understandable.
While the Parliament is homeless, it would be good for it to sit in various parts of the country rather than Whitehall. I propose the following five sites for Parliament when they will be moved out of Westminster: Winchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Manchester.
Winchester Year 1 – I believe the first year for Parliament should be in Winchester, Hampshire. Winchester would be the ideal place for the first year of Parliament because it was arguably the first capital of England- when it was the Anglo-Saxon’s capital of the city of the kingdom of Wessex. (The Roman capital was London though, before the Saxons). Besides having a rich history, the city is absolutely beautiful. It would be a splendid site to have the State Opening of Parliament in the Great Hall in Winchester Castle. The building dates back to 1067 and hosts (supposedly obviously) the round table of King Arthur.
I support Winchester because it is a nod to great English history and to rural England. Too often, the people of the countryside are forgotten. Furthermore, Winchester has a City Council Hall and the Hampshire County Council building which could hold Parliament while it conducts its business. (Possibly Commons in one of the buildings and Lords in the other). While unfortunately the council buildings are not like the city but are modern and fairly ugly, they could still do the job.
Year 2-4: Cardiff, Belfast, and Edinburgh – What could be more one nation than having the Celtic nation capitals host Parliament for one year each. All of them have very capable buildings. The Welsh capital building, called the Senedd, is ultra-modern and was opened in just 2006. The Scottish Parliament building was built in 2004 but is in the beautiful, UNESCO Holyrood area of Edinburgh. Stormont, the Parliament building in Belfast, is a beautiful building built in 1932. Moving the Parliaments to Celtic countries for one year will show the world (and the people of the Celtic countries) that the United Kingdom is much more than just England.
The final year Manchester– Manchester is a very important city in the United Kingdom, and the greater Manchester area is second only to London in population. Plus, it has a beautiful Town Hall built in 1877 that could host Parliament. The Manchester Town Hall is a wonderful venue, as it is a Gothic building with a clock tower, and has even been the site for Parliament in movies. What better way to show a commitment to the Northern Powerhouse than making Manchester the site of Parliament for a year.
Devolve power to counties and cities, get the SNP out and rotate the site of Parliament for five years. Do that and there will be no doubt that a Conservative government is serious about leading a One-Nation United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.