At the turn of the year, barely noticed by most people, Westminster politicians voted to spend billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on redecorating their own offices. A Plaid Cymru/SNP amendment to allow Parliament to be relocated outside London was defeated, and the Tory Government’s preferred option for renovation was defeated.
Westminster MPs supported an alternative proposal from a group of Labour, Tory and DUP backbench politicians to spend up to £4 billion pounds of public money temporarily moving MPs to an alternative location in London while work is carried out on the Palace of Westminster. Plaid Cymru had called for MPs to be given a further option – to leave the Palace of Westminster permanently and move Parliament outside London, arguing that it would not only save money for taxpayers but also contribute towards rebalancing the UK economy.
It is worth noting that in the six months since the Westminster election and the refurbishment vote, the Westminster Government has scrapped electrification of the railway line to Swansea; they have pretty much kicked the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon into the long grass; and slashed funding for the NHS, local government and schools. Yet Westminster MP’s managed to vote to spend up to £4 billion pounds of taxpayers money redecorating their own offices.
And this is during a time of rising inequality, and public faith in democracy shaken, it’s typical that the Westminster establishment has mobilised ultra-efficiently to protect its own interests. So rather than redecorating a dilapidated building centred in a city that is infamous for being part of the problem, rather than the solution, to the widening geographic inequality across the UK, MP’s should have taken the opportunity to move the Parliament outside London, saving public money and taking a major step towards rebalancing the economy.
If Westminster politicians seriously think that spending £4 billion on their own place of work is going to re-build the peoples trust in the political process, then they need to think again, perhaps they should visit visit communities across Wales who have been completely let down by successive Westminster governments. A £4 billion renovation might fix a crumbling Palace of Westminster but it certainly will not fix a crumbling and increasingly out of touch Westminster establishment.