Westminster Times
Westminster Times

With the party political conference season well under way, the House of Commons has gone back into recess, so MPs have moved out and the builders have moved in.

And it is only when this army of men in hard hats descends on the place to patch it up that it becomes clear just how run down and dilapidated the wonderfully Gothic Palace of Westminster truly is.

Its skin is peeled away to reveal crumbling walls, creaking floors, leaky ceilings and layers of asbestos. Bela Lugosi would feel right at home.

To put it bluntly, the building is in danger of falling apart and would never pass modern health and safety checks.

So the now annual speculation has started over what to do about it. And the entirely serious suggestion that the only realistic option is to move everyone out for a period of years is back on the cards.

The authorities have already suggested a move into another, nearby building, with the QE2 conference centre across Parliament Square one of the options.

What is certain is that no decision will be taken this side of the general election but the new intake of MPs may well find one of their first jobs is to vote on moving themselves out of the historic building for years.

A Tory bearing gifts

Tory billionaire Peer Lord Ashcroft may not be the first person who leaps to mind as a star turn at a Labour party gathering.

But he has now confirmed he is to speak at a fringe meeting at the party conference later this month and is "looking forward to it".

He may well get a surprisingly good reception after his recent survey of local constituencies suggested the Tories were in serious trouble.

After polling almost 13,000 voters in the 40 Tory seats with the smallest majorities he discovered Labour's lead had grown from 9 to 14 points as a direct result of Conservatives defecting to UKIP.

Labour now stands at 43% in those regions, compared to just 29% for the Tories, 11% for UKIP and just 8% for the Liberal Democrats.

If the figures translate into votes at the 2015 election, Labour would win enough seats giving them a healthy Commons majority.

Odd that it will be a Tory who travels to Brighton to offer some good news to Ed Miliband's nervous troops who still can't quite bring themselves to believe they are on course for outright victory.

Where have all the interns gone?

The continuing debate over low-pay and no-pay jobs seems to be having an effect in Westminster.

A cursory scan of the latest job ads on the website W4MP shows not a single MP seeking unpaid interns. There are one or two minimum wage and a few IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) pay scale offers but not a single "expenses only" post.

It could just be the recess of course, but perhaps this is a case of MPs setting a good example.

Joking aside

Many commentators have remarked on the appalling standard of the so-called "jokes" coming from the Liberal Democrat conference platform. Ed Davey's reference to being "fracking responsible" over shale gas was particularly cringe inducing.

It took old hand and former leader "Chat Show Charlie" Kennedy to show then how it is done - by stealing somebody else's best line.

He reminded us that Tory grandee Sir Malcolm Rifkind once described the Liberal Democrats thus: "If Columbus had been a Lib Dem he would have discovered the Mid Atlantic".

Ear we go again

England rugby player Manu Tuilagi has tweeted an apology to David Cameron for giving him bunny ears in a prank during a photoshoot outside Downing Street, after the Lions were invited to celebrate their success over Australia.

It could have been much worse. A few years ago Cameron was visiting a housing estate and was pictured oblivious to the fact that a hoodie behind him was giving him a different sort of two-fingered salute.