MPs: The 19th Century solution 24


One of the things I really do miss about the privileged existence I gave up, is the National Liberal Club. Seated with a book in a deep leather armchair by a roaring fire on a cold day, you could watch the shades of Gladstone, Lloyd George and the young Churchill stroll by.

In the Gent’s there is a cartoon of Tory wit FE Smith. The caption informs us that he would saunter, after a good few drinks, from his law practice at the Middle Temple to the Commons, often stopping at the National Liberal Club to use the lavatory. Some members complained, and one day he was stopped in the foyer by the porter:

“Excuse me sir, you do realise this is a private members’ club?”

Smith looked around him and sniffed:

“A club? I didn’t realise it was a club as well!”

Anyway, I really miss the place. I was a member for well over twenty years but I can no longer afford the fees. But why I recall the NLC now, is that it was specifically built following the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884, to provide accommodation for working class Liberal MPs who could not afford a second home in London.

Sadly the bedrooms were sold off a few years back to the Royal Horseguards hotel, but surely this is the way to go? Out of London MPs should be provided with the use of a small flat in a dedicated block at public expense. That, their salary and travel to their constituency should be all they are given. I can see no evidence to suggest that the quite excessive office and staff budgets they have nowadays, have done anything to increase the quality of government.


24 thoughts on “MPs: The 19th Century solution

  • Andy

    Wasn’t Dolphin Square built by Westminster City Council for the same reason?

  • Ed Davies

    It has been suggested that this might be a use for the Olympic village.

  • ceedee

    Wouldn’t MPs’ accommodation be a fitting second use of the Olympic Village in Stratford?

    And under half an hour to Westminster by tube too.

  • ingo

    Indeed it would be a good place for MPs. Whence the Olympics have gone and local councils start thinking about the struggle of maintaining the facillities, thats the time when Mps should be asked to determine the severity of their own security arrangements in parts of the Olympic village. From that day onwards all expenses for housing, be it morgage or rent would seize to be paid by the taxpayer.

    Alternatively there are lots of redundant MOD/Government facilities in and around London that could also be used for such purpose, but the Olympic village currently rising up could have this second use already built into them.

    I’m sadly struggling with the same problem of being economically disadvantaged Craig, otherwise I would offer to sponsor your membership to the NLC for a year.

  • EricJ

    The NLC, which I fondly remember from my student days when membership was so cheap, seems to have gone downhill. (I’ve got some of the books it sold off in my library now.) So it would be good to see it return to public service.

    But what about converting parts of the Palace of Westminster too? The Speaker’s over-lavish accommodation and the rooms only used when the Queen attends in person come readily to mind.

  • Old Codger

    “I can see no evidence to suggest that the quite excessive office and staff budgets they have nowadays, have done anything to increase the quality of government.”

    From where I sit it appears to have got significantly worse.

    Your proposals have a number of advantages, not the least of which is the likely demise of the career politician. No one should be in parliament until he has succeeded elsewhere, whether as cabin steward or MD.

  • HappyClappy

    Why do we need MPs?

    Internet, can afford the whole of the population the chance of running their own country, and jointly and severally shouldering the responsibilities thereof.

    Surely the participation of the people in determining the course of the future events would cut the middle men out, and get on with some serious planning, and policy making.

    Silly me, that would be democracy, not this crapocracy that is a neo thingy interpretation of plutocracy, borrowing tapas fashion from various theories (bit of this and bits of that) in an attempt to adhere to the constructs of feudalism with a concious.

    If our “great and good” can embark on giving us each an ID card, which carries our; biometrics, DNA, finger print, medical history, bank details, family history, favourite foods, etc. surely we all can have a real vote too, and can cast the same given the opportunity for casting the said vote, instead of casting the current kabuki “vote”, which is sort of a blind vote, and subsequent disastrous outcomes, on a serial basis.

  • yassau nafti

    rooms in the olympic village seems like a good idea.

    and pleanty of cameras to keep an eye on the b*gg*rs.

    a few rooms could be kept free in the Tower…and allocated from time to time to be deliquent or otherwise negligent..pour encourager les autres you understand

  • Anonymous

    sorry….keyboard stuck

    should have said:

    and allocated from time to time to those found to be delinquent…etc

  • Anonymous

    I quite agree that there should be a large apartment complex built for M.P.’s near Westminster. It should be very nice too, but not like a palace. One less thing for our ‘busy’ M.P’s to worry about.

  • david

    I can’t see there’s a problem, most MP’s will soon be in suitable accommodation, Wormwood Scrubs.

  • david

    I can’t see there’s a problem, most MP’s will soon be in suitable accommodation, Wormwood Scrubs.

  • anon

    The expenses scandal is just that but am I being a tad conspiracy theorist in looking askance at the whole business, which seems to rumble on and on and particularly on the BBC.

    Could it be we are being primed to reject democracy in disgust at the doings of our elected representatives, is the New Labour Government’s public image being “collapsed” to ease the way for a landslide victory by another party, or is this row designed to make us look to Europe as the solution? I can’t believe this information would be broadcast unless someone powerful with a vested interest wanted it to be done.

  • Jaded

    The world is full of conspiracies. Just have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Who knows exactly what’s what. It’s one big minefield. My guess is this expenses scandal is a powerful force for ‘good’. It was neatly timed for the Euro elections as well. That’s why New Labour picked July 1st then, as the date they were going to release the details. Stupid me for not thinking it sooner. I knew there had to be a reason. I reiterate though, we would not have got all the details we are getting now. I am 100% sure of that.

  • Jaded

    I digress, but Hazel Blears on ITV 1 now. Repeat I saw a while back. Funny. :-0

  • Leo Davidson

    “I was thinking that, but maybe more like student accommodation.”

    Let’s go one further and give MPs a *loan* instead of a grant.

    We all know that they are MPs in order to secure cushty incomes, just like students study to get a job, so they can damn well pay us back once they’re earning off the back of the course we’ve paid for them to be put through, just like they’ve made all students do.

  • Stephen

    I used to work in the National Liberal Club. I was one of the ones on the right just after you come through the swing doors. I was dressed in green with gold braid. I would give you your key if you gave me your room number. I never thought I’d end up conversing with one of the members over the internet. That was way back before the internet was even invented. Isn’t life strange?

    One thing I found really interesting about the club was the class difference between the members and the staff as it was revealed in their speech patterns, in particular with something so simple as an expression of greeting. The staff would always greet me with a kind of grunt, sounding a bit like ‘awoy?’, which left me mystified for about a couple of weeks before I realized it was a cockney contraction of ‘are you alright?’. (I’m not English and was new in London). The members, by contrast, insisted on greeting me with a very precise reference to the time of day: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening.

    Life is just full of little surprises. If someone had told me back then that I would one day go on to become and honours graduate of Oxford University I’d have told him he was crazy. But that is what came to pass. I have not yet become a member of the ruling elite, I’m afraid, but there’s still hope. In a sense, though, I have come back across the class divide, and there is something nicely complete about finally getting to address and ex-member of the club in his own milieu.

    I too have somewhat fond memories of the club, though in truth I probably hated it at the time. What I loved was having a little room of my own at the top and having all the landmarks of Western Central London on my doorstep. I used to love walking across the Hungerford bridge to the South Bank arts complex, or taking in Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament in an evening stroll. It felt vey central. I sometimes revisit it on google maps Street View. Ah, the wonders of the internet!

  • Cide Hamete Benengeli

    HappyClappy, as you surely know, the Swiss have been doing that since long before the internet!

    Switzerland does have a parliament, but anything they do can be overruled by referendum, which perhaps makes Swiss politicians less uppity than most others. (Anyone know the name of the current president of Switzerland? Me neither.)

    Still, nobody is perfect: even in direct-democracy dreamland, women had to fight till 1990 to have full voting rights.

  • Bob Gom

    A lot of MP’s staff aren’t there to increase the quality of government directly but to deal with constituents problems.

    One of the worst things that could come out of this would be if MP’s expenses were cut not by reducing frivolous second housing claims but by cutting staff through caseworkers and the like. Because this is one of the areas that even the most craven government loyalist can actually help people of their constituencies. Glorified social workers maybe but there are lot’s of examples of positive results coming out of MPs taking up constituents cases and throwing the baby out with bathwater wouldn’t be a good thing.

  • Stuart

    Yes great common sense idea, So I guess it will never happen. If they buy a block from the old Chelsea Barracks before it is built they could customise it as needed re security. Meeting rooms offices etc. Minibuses could be laid on after sessions so the carbon footprint would be reduced and a maid service security could be provided so they could hot bunk. It would save a fortune long term. I know whay they will say security etc etc all eggs in one basket etc etc but if thats the case what the hell is the Palace of Westminster during Prime ministers questions or an important vote? And adequate security could easily be provided en masse saving taxpayers forking out for individual alarms guards etc.

  • Stephen Jones

    What you’ve failed to mention is that for nearly all the seventies and possibly later it was a den of predatory homosexuals. This was true of both the members and the staff. My brother worked in the kitchens there for one and a half days until he left because the advances of the cook were unbearable.

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