Chris Moncrieff: Why Notre-Dame cathedral fire should sound alarm bells over Houses of Parliament restoration

A pigeon flies over the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris as fears grow about the state of the Palace of Westminster.
A pigeon flies over the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris as fears grow about the state of the Palace of Westminster.
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IF the devastating fire that swept through Notre-Dame cathedral in the French capital last week does not ring alarm bells among the complacent Westminster MPs about the perils of their own building, nothing will.

Unbelievably, MPs have been
dithering and arguing for years about
the restoration of the Palace of Westminster as the building continues to crumble and disintegrate before their very eyes.

A floral tribute left by a worshipper in the vicinity of the Notre-Dame cathedral.

A floral tribute left by a worshipper in the vicinity of the Notre-Dame cathedral.

Stop haggling and get on with it!

It is not sensationalising the case at all to express the real fear that someone could be killed unless renovations commence.

Already lumps of masonry have
been falling off the edifice and it is a wonder no one has been hurt, or
even killed, by this alarming evidence 
of the state of the fabric of the
building.

And listen to what shocked Labour MP Anna Turley was told when she was first elected to Westminster in 2015. “On my induction my ‘buddy’ was an engineer,” said the Redcar MP.

The Palace of Westminster is said to be in a dangerous state of disrepair.

The Palace of Westminster is said to be in a dangerous state of disrepair.

“He showed me the electrics – it looked a health and safety disaster (and fire) waiting to happen.”

What’s more, Cabinet Office Minister, David Lidington, has grimly warned that the prospects of a catastrophic fire at Westminster increase as each year passes.

While the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has described the chances
of a fire there as “huge”, his colleague Chris Bryant – a potential successor
to Speaker John Bercow – adds to the litany of warnings with more grave fears about the perils surrounding Westminster.

What more evidence do our ministers and MPs require before they get off their backsides and allow the vital restoration to go ahead?

More dither and delay could be tragic.

MPs may have gone away on holiday for Easter, but, alas, Brexit has not
gone away. Brexit does not take
holidays.

But, before we carp at the fact MPs have been swanning around at the seaside just as the nation endures its biggest political crisis for years, let us just consider a few facts.

First of all, the fact that Parliament has not been in session saves the British taxpayer thousands of pounds – a bonus in itself.

It also meant some relief from the wall-to-wall Brexit coverage for a few days – a relief all round.

Let us hope, too, that the Prime Minister did not do anything silly while on her walking holiday in Wales before returning in time to be a marshal for a 10km run in her Maidenhead constituency on Good Friday.

The last time she went there she dreamed up the madcap, and ultimately disastrous, plan to hold a general election...

PLEASE, let us hear no more
crocodile-tear “apologies” offered to hard-pressed Londoners by the thousands of protesters who, in the name of climate change, have been disrupting key areas in the capital.

This has forced more than 50 bus routes to be disrupted and left London’s rail network under threat.

And far from winning any sympathy for their cause, they are simply hardening attitudes against it.

The best way to deal with this menace is, unfortunately, beyond our powers: A good dollop of rain.

I remember years ago covering a similar demonstration in Whitehall, central London.

Suddenly, the heavens opened
and the rain came down in buckets. A police officer looked up at the heavens, and said to me: “That’s the best policeman of them all.” He was right. Hey presto! Within minutes, everyone had scurried off home.

THE popular broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, Jack-of-all-trades 
(and master of them all), has said
that he appeared in pantomime just before he became a Member of Parliament. He commented, perhaps a little cynically, that this was good preparation for his new job at Westminster.

Who am I to argue with the great
man? But I would have thought a
stint in the Rocky Horror Picture 
Show might have been even better preparation.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political editor of the Press Association.