THE BLOG

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation: Where Should Parliament Move to?

23/07/2015 17:26 BST | Updated 23/07/2016 10:59 BST

As Parliament breaks for the summer recess this week, there's a bit of time to think about some non-legislative stuff for a change. One pretty pressing issue bubbling underneath is this: with the Palace of Westminster crumbling, where should our MPs and Lords go?

Before you crack out the jokes ('into the sea', 'as far away as possible' etc. etc.) it's a serious question. Westminster could soon be going through a renovation programme that could last up to 40 years and cost more than £7billion. That's a long time and a lot of money.

MPs and Peers may well have to move out for a good while. If so, why not have a change of setting? Where and how our Parliament sits is fairly central to the democratic structure of the UK. And in an over-centralised UK (though this is slowly changing), how about a new format or location? The full 'move out' approach to renovating the Palace would be significantly cheaper than doing all the work while Parliamentarians remained, at £4billion.

So how about a symbolic relocation to...

The geographical middle of Great Britain - variously described as Haltwhistle in Northumberland, or 71 miles away... Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire, which is vaguely near the larger conurbations of Burnley, Blackburn and Lancaster.

The 'centre of population' in Britain - described in 2000 as the hamlet of Appleby Parva in Leicestershire. Not too far from Birmingham.

The centre of England - after all, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are increasingly devolved and managing their own affairs. Ordnance Survey put this point in 2000 as Lindley Hall Farm in Leicestershire, near the larger cities of Leicester and Coventry.

A touring Parliament - could we send MPs and (hopefully by then elected Peers) to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England for a quarter of the year respectively?

HMS Parliament - this obviously went down well on our joke Facebook poll. How about a Parliament ship that goes around the UK, stopping at coastal towns? Maybe not so practical, but fun, either way. Possible security risk.

A Parliament in the North - our centralised country could do with some major political institutions moving northwards. Parliament could be put in Manchester or Leeds for a few years to drag our politicians away from the Westminster bubble. What do you think?

But it's not just about where it is that matters. It's how Parliament looks - how it's laid out internally, how accessible it is, what it looks like from the outside to the wider public. Is it time for a less oppositional chamber - where instead of having a binary 'opposition' and 'government' side, we have a hemispherical chamber like in Scotland and Wales? One that fosters cooperation and multi-party politics over 'yah-boo' contention?

And is it time for a Parliament that looks less like a 19th Century neo-gothic church and more like... well, a nice, practical government building? A very small part - but a part nonetheless, perhaps - of the reason why people are so switched off from formal politics has to be how archaic it actually looks, from its arcane practices to its imposing spiky architecture.

So, with the high likelihood of MPs and Lords having to move out for at least a few years in the near-ish future, what should a new Palace of Westminster (that potentially isn't in Westminster) look like?

This piece was originally published on the Electoral Reform Society website here.