The Palace of Westminster is crumbling and in dire need of surgery.
Unlike London Bridge, this great edifice is not in danger of falling down – not yet anyway.
But even politicians have at long last come round to the view that this cannot go on for much longer. The alarming state of disrepair has got to be confronted before it becomes unsafe. This will cost billions of pounds but early estimates will increase as the workmen discover unknown weaknesses when they probe this edifice, thus adding to the cost.
Some have suggested the pulling down of the building and replacing it with a modern one. This would probably be the cheapest option, but even the most pennywise of MPs recognise this would be a catastrophic error. It would deprive London of its most famous landmark and could have a dire effect on the tourist trade. The big problem is what to do with the 600 MPs, their staff, the press and the scores of other “camp followers” who would have to move out for some six years while this work goes on.
Adapting the nearby Department of Health building – or part of it – into a debating chamber is one option being considered. Another is that a floating Parliament should be moored in the Thames close to the existing building. That idea may not be so dotty as it sounds, and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said it deserves to be looked at. Whatever decision is reached, we are looking at what will be perhaps the biggest removal job mankind has ever seen.
- No wonder David Cameron regularly flunked reaching a decision on a new runway for Heathrow Airport. It is political dynamite. He has lumbered his successor Theresa May with making a decision that is expected to be announced soon.
Top industrialists and others insist a new runway here is vital for the health of Britain’s economic future.
But a decision to go ahead would alienate thousands of people – many Tory voters among them – who live around the Heathrow flight path.
This will be a huge test for the Prime Minister. Will she put the interests of her own party before those of the nation’s economic wellbeing? And where does the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, whose constituency is in the affected area, now stand on all this?