If Boris Johnson is thinking of moving the House of Lords to the North – partly to get it out of his hair, and partly to suck up to the region of England most decimated by Thatcherism – York is the least suitable city to plonk it in. (See https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7904209/House-Lords-moved-York-Boris-Johnson.html.) In reality York is a bit of the South that just happens to be in the North geographically: a pretty, chocolate-box lid tourist town, with lots of splendid mediaeval architecture, to remind their Lordships of their feudal roots, an archbishop to partner the one living in Lambeth, no industry left, and a gleaming newish out-of-town university that doesn’t strike me (and I worked there temporarily some years ago) as reflecting ‘northern-ness’ in any essential way. York is a lovely town, but it’s no longer ‘the North’.
Five years ago I penned a piece that suggested that Parliament, as a whole, might relocate to another place temporarily, while the Palace of Westminster is being refurbished, in order to bring MPs closer to those of their electors the ‘Westminster bubble’ has rather lost contact with. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2015/01/09/peripatetic-parliaments/.) My favourite choice then was Manchester; and that would be my ideal venue for the Upper House today. It has a fine Victorian Gothic city hall which was built a bit later than Westminster, but in my view is architecturally superior; and which surely could house their lordships comfortably. It also has two leading football teams. (You can’t get much more Northern than that.) Beyond this, however, Manchester and its environs have a strong claim to be the capital of a vital English ‘identity’ quite distinct from, but just as important as, the one that London, and Westminster in particular, represent: its industrial, nonconformist, creative, democratic and radical (in so many different ways) spirit. Boris might not feel comfortable there; but putting half of Parliament in Manchester could help to bring the North and South together in the way he claims to want.
And I write as an (adopted) Yorkist.
(PS. Also printed in Guardian Letters, 23 Jan.)
Manchester Town Hall’s being refurbished & is consequently closed until 2022. But this actually makes it ideal: the Council can simply go on meeting wherever they’re meeting now, and the designers have got plenty of time to accommodate whatever changes are needed. Plus the Lords won’t be relegated to a tourist-trap backwater – they can come to a thriving multicultural, Labour-voting city!
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This old Mancunian, born and bred, couldn’t agree with you more! And, of course, there is the ‘other’ Old Trafford as well, which so often in the past – and even now – takes promising players from the various leagues all round Lancashire. And you can’t get it more ‘northern’ than that!
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I wonder, what’s the difference between an ‘(adopted) Yorkist’ and an adopted Yorkshireman, which I seem to be. A Lancashire-born Cumbrian now living in Yorkshire, who also spent 9 years at school in Yorkshire, while living in Lancashire! But that’s a digression. Some years ago, and for my own amusement I wrote a piece entitled ’10 Steps To Better Government’. It included ‘5. Vacate the Palace of Westminster (create a ‘Musuem of Democracy’) and re-locate northwards.’ I see no point or advantage to the voter / taxpayer in moving only the Lords; the Palace of Westminster is rat-infested and crumbling, apparently, and has to be vacated – now’s the time! My own suggestion would be somewhere further west than York, not only because of my Lancashire origin, but in order to find the closest point to both the demographic and geographic centres of the UK, assuming the UK stays together. If you do the Lands End to John o’Groats walk, Penrith is halfway, but the demographic centre, I think, is further south – how about Preston, or Lancaster? (That would upset the real ‘Yorkists’!)
If you’re interested to see the ’10 Steps ….’ they are here : https://wordpress.com/post/tomkeith.wordpress.com/2
(When I first posted them, it was on a previous web host (Posterous?) which was taken over by WordPress. I included an argument for each point but the post disappeared! Only the 10 points, remain, copied from the original hand-written version.)
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