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Westminsterland

Westminster Hall in London.
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, About a mile from where I’m sitting is one of London’s oldest unspoiled buildings. It is beautiful, majestic and has seen countless English Kings and Queens parading through it, and a fair number of American Presidents too.

Westminster Hall, part of Parliament itself, has survived intact since 1097. Revolution and war never touched it. It is magnificent. The hammer-beam oak roof is a wonder. It’s the sort of place where you stop and gape in silence. People come from all over the world just to marvel at its huge emptiness.

I wonder if they’ll bother in future.

Because Westminster Hall has now become centre of attention for a dangerous breed of political modernisers. These modernisers want to scrap most of the traditions of the British Houses of Parliament. They believe that our democracy is out of date and that’s why people can’t be bothered to vote.

But what they’re planning for Westminster Hall isn’t modernisation, its architectural murder.

The flagstoned floor of Westminster Hall, where Monarchs and Prime Ministers have lain in state for centuries -- most recently, Her Majesty the Queen Mother just a few months ago - the very floor upon which her coffin stood, will be ripped-up and replaced by a chromium-plated moving walkway – a travelator, I believe you call it. The vast stone walls will be covered by monster video screens, displaying members of parliament live in debate, but eighteen times their normal size. Visitors would then be whisked on the travelator past interactive exhibits to test their knowledge of the democratic system. You’ll probably be charged at least twenty bucks a go for this dubious experience.

No Disneyland imagineer could have conceived such a crass scheme. Mickey Mouse would throw up if he saw the plans.

Trouble is the political modernisers seriously believe that by making our democracy touchy-feely, larger than life and “fun” will suddenly see people rushing off to cast their votes again. It's rubbish, it's wrong and it will pointlessly ruin one of this country’s finest buildings.

So if you want to see Westminster Hall as it always was and as it is – then please hurry. Because it always won't be.
By Ed Boyle