The suggestion made yesterday by Labour MP Meg Hillier (Hackney South & Shoreditch, pictured left) that Parliament should decamp to the huge, empty media centre on the Olympic Park (pictured below) should be taken very seriously.
Those who follow Parliamentary Connections will know that I am 100% in favour of finding Parliament a new home, one fit for the 21st century. With the splendid Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, John Thurso, heading up the House of Commons Commission that is looking into the pressing need to refurbish the present Palace of Westminster in which Parlaiment has its home, it seems that MPs are slowly coming round to accepting they might have to move out for a few years to enable the work to be carried out properly and cost-effectively.
A move to Stratford would be perfect. It would ensure that plenty of money is spent on maintaining the new transport infrastructure, that the Olympic Park itself becomes a daily hive of activity and, crucially, money flows into businesses and office properties in Stratford, Hackney and Leyton. This would be a great legacy for that part of London.
There might even be a chance that a new generation of MPs after the next election, less likely to have been seduced by the faded Victorian charms of the current Palace of Westminster, might decide that a modern Parliament building is very much to their liking and opt to stay there.
I have struggled to find much comment on - or even reporting of - yesterday's short debate in Parliament in the mainstream media, although there was an item on Radio 4. Could this be because the estblished political correspondents share the innate conservatism of many MPs and can't face the prospect of a move, even a temporary one?
A little footnote on Mr Thurso. He is actually an hereditary peer (the 3rd Viscount Thurso) and sat in the House of Lords until the right of heridtary peers to an automatic seat was abolished in 1999 (a move he suppported). He won a seat in the House of Commons in 2001, becoming the third generation of his family to represent the Caitheness area in Scotland, his grandfather being Archibald Sinclair, a former Liberal Party leader. He jokes that he doesn't have to have election posters printed as all the road signs in the constituency point to Thurso, where he lives.
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