Parliamentary sketch – Rats at war on the sinking ship?

Posted on: 7th September 2012

Commons officials welcomed MPs back this week with news that the Palace of Westminster may have to close for up to five years for £3bn worth of repairs. I’m told the House of Commons is sinking, cracking, warping, leaking and is full of rats and other vermin! As for the building itself…!

“Where would we go?” I hear you ask. “Who would have us?” I understand there’s a space reserved for us to pitch a tent near Wormwood Scrubs, such is the esteem with which the British public holds those it elects to take the tough decisions that others find too hot to handle.

If only those decisions were nicely straight forward. Good vs Evil. East vs West. Capulets vs Montagues. City vs United. We like to deal in nicely rounded binary choices. It makes life so much easier. None of that groping around in the grey shadows of doubt. Love it or leave it. If you aren’t for us you’re against us.

Politics is more ‘at home’ with neat stark opposites, and a clear space – a no man’s land – across which the hard ironmongery of shouting matches can be hurled at each other, from fortresses of righteousness and mutual incomprehension. We’ll be at it again this week, as if we’ve never been away.

We’ll be doing it on education policy, the reform of the House of Lords, immigration, health and social care and umpteen other areas where the yahoo tribalists are happy in their comfort zone of lobbing insults at the rascals and weirdos on the opposite side.

You’d hope that the importance of sorting out our economy could be handled with greater decorum, appealing to the independent arbiters amongst academic economists and the Office of Budget Responsibility. After all, we want the right answer not the loudest chant from the football terraces of Commons chamber.

Should we risk spending more now on housing and other infrastructure in order to stimulate the growth we all cherish or should we cut spending and with it taxes and hope that will encourage people to invest themselves? As ever, there turn out to be more opinions than there are academic economists, so politicians quickly revert to good old faith and bluster.

But as politicians resume knocking chunks and seven bells out of each other the economy teeters and Banks still refuse to lend. So what should we do? Go back to talking rather than shouting. Come together and accept that there’s no easy answer, though investment in housing must form the basis of any forward plan, the detailed options are many shades of grey.

3rd September 2012