Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

1 November 2009

Come back Guy Fawkes, all is forgiven!

Guy Fawkes – the leader of the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 – is a figure about whom the English have been ambivalent ever since, depending on the varying repute in which Parliament has been held. Currently, respect for the Westminster Parliament is at one of its lowest ebbs ever, which moves Guy Fawkes more over to the positive end of the hero-to-villain spectrum.

In fact – exaggerating somewhat – one of the greatest services some latter-day terrorist could render to democracy in England would be to blow the old place up: of course, without any human casualties. I say this because if the Palace of Westminster were destroyed, it would be more than just a new parliament building that would be erected in its place: I feel sure that such a tabula rasa would result in a major overhaul of the antiquated and democratically deficient processes of the Westminster Parliament and, indeed, of the whole structure of parliamentary governance in Britain. Assuming that a radically new, modern parliament were built in the place of the bombed-out building – i.e. they did not attempt to reconstruct the Victorian white elephant that is the present parliament – it’s almost impossible to imagine that the institution itself, its culture and traditions, would remain the same.

For example, the chamber of the Commons would most likely be built in the horseshoe shape designed to foster a more collaborative and open style of debating as opposed to the antagonistic, punch-and-judy style of politics encouraged by the rectangular lay-out of the present chamber. The new building could also be designed literally to enable open, transparent politics by embodying more open spaces for MPs to conduct informal meetings and discussions, and by having many more glass walls and partitions, so that people can see who is talking to whom.

But over and above these architectural and cultural considerations, I think the necessity to construct a completely new parliament building would be perceived as an opportunity to make a completely fresh start with how we conduct parliamentary democracy and government in Britain. And, who knows, the trauma of the Westminster Parliament’s destruction might finally overcome the reluctance, indeed inability, of many English people to contemplate the establishment of an English parliament. Perhaps, with the whole new start and the massive financial cost that the need to rebuild Parliament made necessary, people would start to think that the new London parliament should be an English one, and that we should perhaps locate a totally new British parliament (dealing with reserved matters only) somewhere else altogether.

Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the old English Parliament; it’s time to bring him back and give him another chance, so we can restore it!

PS. For any anti-terrorist security staff or ‘lawful-intercept’ data analysts that might be reading this, I’m not actually advocating that terrorists should target the Palace of Westminster: it’s a metaphor.



  1. to make a completely fresh start with how we conduct parliamentary democracy and government in Britain.

    Except that it is a pipedream. They are not going to relinquish thier power they’ve worked so hard to get so easily. The Mandelsons are the visible face of a real evil set to consume us. We can call it the EU but the EU itself is a symptom.

    Fresh start? Lovely thought.

    Comment by jameshigham — 1 November 2009 @ 8.58 am | Reply

  2. Actually – I think the Houses of Parliament is a fabulous building and I see no need to destroy it just to overhaul the parliamentary system.

    It is the history and customs that surround the house that ‘should’ keep the bast*rds honest, but when respect for those traditions and customs have been so eroded (as by this lot) then a shiny new pretendy parliament will be little improvement. Just because it is new does not make it better.

    Comment by Michele — 1 November 2009 @ 10.39 am | Reply

  3. No banana-republic type Garish eyesore, like the Scotch EU Regional Assembly, for an English Parliament Please!.

    Just get out of the EU Dictatorship and then send the Scotch, Welsh and N Irish MP’s back to their own Region and EU Regional Assemblies where they can all have their beloved EU and rubber stamp EU legislation (Diktats) till the cows come home basking in their pretendy Independence wee world.


    Comment by John — 1 November 2009 @ 12.54 pm | Reply

  4. I vote for a row of electrified comfy chairs, à la Blofeld… with the electorate’s fingers on the red button.

    Comment by Harry Hook — 3 November 2009 @ 11.31 pm | Reply

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