A Peripatetic Parliament

I love early morning radio. ‘Thought for the Day’, the point at which most people turn off and get up to put the coffee on, is one of my favourites, with proper arguments – even if I disagree with them – rather than soundbites. The religious ones generally sugar their religion with something intelligent. (I think ‘Jesus saves’ would get me out of bed pretty smartly.) Most of them have interesting things to say.

On Sundays this is replaced with ‘A Point of View’, which is usually equally worth listening to. This morning’s was. It was by one Tom Shakespeare, a ‘bioethicist’, arguing very cogently a position that I aired eighteen months ago on the LRB Blog (http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2014/11/25/bernard-porter/parliamentary-roadshow/): that, while the present crumbling Palace of Westminster is being refurbished, parliament might travel around the country, in the manner of the old mediaeval courts, in order to experience what life outside the ‘bubble’ was really like. The BBC4 website even gives the programme the same title as my blog. I’m not implying plagiarism; ‘Parliamentary Roadshow’ is an obvious name for it, and I’m sure I wasn’t the first to think of the main idea. Here’s the link to the programme, if you can get it up (I couldn’t): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07qc93n#play.

Alternatively, suggests Shakespeare, Parliament could be moved to a single provincial city for the full six years. He suggests Birmingham. For those who have to work in Whitehall, he argues, that would have the further advantage of making them experience the intercity rail travel we ordinary folk have to endure. That’s a good point.

My own preferred choice, however, would be Manchester. The neo-gothic City Hall there looks a bit like Barry and Pugin’s parliament building – indeed, in my opinion it’s architecturally far superior; and to my mind Manchester is Britain’s (or at least England’s) second capital, historically: that is, the capital of radical Britain, in many different ways. But I doubt whether our legislators will want to leave London, with all its pleasures; and City financiers and newspaper editors might not take kindly to MPs’ being out of their sight, and therefore away from their maleficent influence, for that stretch of time.

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