Redesigning Parliament

Posted on July 7th, 2016 by Matteo Bergamini

The Crick Centre has launched a major research and public engagement project exploring the planned restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster: Designing for Democracy. In the second of our Designing for Democracy blog series, Matteo Bergamini, Director and Founder of news network Shout Out UK, calls for a Parliament building accessible to all, and built for co-operation, not “gang-style politics”.

 

The proposed rebuilding of parliament offers an incredible and exciting prospect of ripping up the old, stuffy way we have always done politics for something more modern and accessible for all. For this I want to address two issues, first the issue of access for the disabled and second, the possibility of having a non-confrontational parliament.

Recently Shout Out UK held an event in Parliament, sponsored by Kirsty Blackman MP, was the showcase of a documentary created by Creative Opportunities, talking about the issues disabled people had in the working world; showcasing the people that are trying to do something about it and telling the stories of people that had suffered prejudice because of a disability.

Due to the subject matter, many of the guests attending were disabled and only then did we realise one simple fact… Parliament is not disabled friendly… in fact it is not even close. Our biggest shock came when we asked for a ramp as one of our speakers was in a wheelchair; the panic from the parliamentary team that followed was incredible as they scrambled to find one…

Palace of Westminster. Image courtesy of DAVID ILIFF via Wikimedia Commons and reproduced under license CC-BY-SA 3.0

Palace of Westminster. Image courtesy of David Iliff via Wikimedia Commons

As a young person with no disability, I often overlook such simple facts and issues, but our democracy, if it wishes to be truly inclusive, cannot forget such basic access issues. Indeed it is incredible that nothing has been done about it at all yet and whatever form the new revamp will take, it should aim to become fully accessible to all, regardless of their disability.

Moving on to the idea of a non-confrontational redesign, it is my belief that it is time we move away from confrontational politics and that means redesigning the House of Lords and Commons to have a similar shape to the European Parliament. When I say non-confrontational, I do not mean moving away from debate, but from this culture of us versus them, due to where I am sitting, regardless of what they say. It is unclear how feasible such a reshape would be, but it is generally accepted that your environment shapes how you are and what you do and if that is the case, surely the current confrontational arrangement of being on either one side of the room or the other is counter-productive? It forces all parties to pick a side, making it hard for MPs on one side of the bench to discuss and begin discussions with MPs from the other side…

The original idea, stemming from a two party system, was that each side would argue the bill fully, with the hope that the best possible course of action comes out of that argument. However, we no longer live in a two party system and with the world changing so rapidly, surely we would prefer our politicians talk to each other in a spirit of cooperation for the good of the country, rather than the current gang style politics we see, with both sides of the house resembling two opposing gangs, from different postcodes, which hate and disagree with each other not because they have listened and disagree, but simply because they must disagree on the grounds that they are on the other side of the building.

It is my belief that we are being given an opportunity to improve British politics with this renewal of Westminster; let us give our democracy a home where cooperation and dialogue can thrive, not some distant relic from a past that is no longer applicable.

Biography

Matteo Bergamini

Matteo Bergamini completed his undergraduate degree in Politics & History at the Brunel University in 2014. During his time at university Bergamini was heavily involved in Politics and Journalism, working in Salzburg, Austria at the Salzburg Global Seminar. During his time at the organisation, his role involved helping to organise trans-national conferences between various stake-holders from around the globe. During 2015, Bergamini successfully managed to fundraise enough capital to produce a short documentary film ‘Anonymous: A Million Men’, recently acquired by Shorts International for worldwide distribution. The fundraising was successful enough to pay all involved, plus professional production costs. An avid promoter of political discourse and literacy amongst young people, Bergamini was invited to become a fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce for his work in encouraging political education amongst young people.

 

Note: this article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Crick Centre; the Designing for Democracy project; or the Understanding Politics blog series. To write for the Understanding Politics blog, email us at crick@sheffield.ac.uk

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