Though I mean no disrespect to Her Majesty, I cannot bring myself to get cloaked up in ermine each year, to hear her tell us what “her” government will do. The scene of peers all huddled in their red dressing gowns is endlessly recycled in the media – whenever the Lords is mentioned – despite the fact that for all but this one day of the year Peers wear simple, smart business attire. Indeed, even this afternoon for the set-piece debate on the “Gracious Speech” suits, not gowns, are the order of the day.
However, once all the pomp and ceremony is out of the way, there is one sane side-effect left behind by the circus: the scene outside Parliament once it is all over. The great ugly barriers there to protect us from car bombs, together with a messy car park, are removed, opening up the whole space known as “Old Palace Yard” opposite and around the famous statue of King Richard III. They can be removed because the traffic, too, has gone. And yet the world keeps on turning, and London keeps on moving.
If this became the norm, alongside serious renovation and part-pedestrianisation of Parliament Square, visiting Parliament would be a more welcoming prospect for the British public, for whom this is the iconic centre of our constitution. The Square, bounded by Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court, the Treasury and the Palace of Westminster, should be a place for people, not a glorified roundabout. In London, such a change could also turn the area into a far more democratic space, for visitors for home and abroad, with the potential of a new Speaker’s Corner.
What do you think?