Relocating Westminster

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s suggestion of moving the Bank of England to Birmingham reminds me of an idea I had a while back:

… to take advantage of the Palace of Westminster’s imminent overhaul to evacuate it and move Parliament around, like the Cup Final while Wembley was being rebuilt. Peripatetic parliaments or king’s councils are not unprecedented. We had them in the early Middle Ages. Other countries still do. That way MPs could re-engage directly with the parts of Britain that feel distanced from Westminster today.

Meeting one year in Manchester, the next in Glasgow (not Edinburgh, given the local competition), another in Swansea, then in Newcastle or even Hull (UK City of Culture in 2017), they would see the shuttered-up shops, the desolation caused by deindustrialisation, as well as the many positive and promising aspects of provincial life. And national journalists would follow them, and report. I’m sure they could find enough big rooms to meet and debate in – even some that might remind them of their old home, such as Manchester Town Hall (a much better building than the Palace of Westminster). Getting away from London for a while could do Britain’s crumbling democracy a power of good. What’s to lose?

That was in https://bernardjporter.com/2015/01/09/peripatetic-parliaments/ – in connexion with the popular alienation from the ‘Westminster bubble’ which I felt (as an adopted Northerner) was partly responsible for the Brexit vote. I still think it’s a good idea. I see my original post has been taken up and quoted by others recently: for example,  https://leftfootforward.org/2017/12/john-mcdonnell-said-parliament-could-move-out-of-london-and-why-not/.

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One Response to Relocating Westminster

  1. Eric says:

    An old idea even in the context of modern British politics: in 1834 Thomas Bish, an English MP whose party affiliation seems best described as O’Connellite (incidentally, also the man behind the success of Vauxhall Gardens), proposed that parliament should occasionally sit in Dublin in order to create a ‘complete, binding and real union’.
    Would peripatetic parliaments help now? Perhaps. But MPs who don’t see the socioeconomic problems in their constituencies are unlikely to see them elsewhere, and there are geographically distinct well-off areas in almost every city (as the recent Lloyds report tells us, there’s a ‘million-pound street’ now in every English region); while ‘ordinary people’ are unlikely to be engaged by the mere physical presence of politicians in a near-by rather than far-away grand building where they continue to have their quaintly detached routines – has it engaged Londoners? There’s also the concern that peripatetic parliaments might add to the – already due to recent events large – reputation of this country internationally for being a crackpot, as well as the problem of the housing expenses that would need to be awarded.

    Liked by 1 person

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