As a staunch traditionalist, I was stunned by the decision of the House of Lords to abandon vellum as the means of printing and storing statutes. If it had been a mean-minded Socialist House of Commons, I would not have been surprised but, for it to be a decision of the Upper House, I found particularly baffling. So, full marks to Matt Hancock in the Cabinet Office for overturning the Lords’ churlishness and finding the funds to bear the miserly cost of £80,000 pa.
In our digital age, I suspect many will turn up their noses at such a non-technological means of recording our legislative history but our country thrives on idiosyncrasy and tradition and long may it continue. We have a constitutional monarchy that spares us the horror of a President Blair or Bercow. We have armed forces that parade in centuries old uniforms and yet are the envy of the world, providing we maintain their funding. Contrary to practice in most of the world, we drive on the left of the road to counter the threat of highwaymen. Priests in the church don vestments dating from the Roman Empire but it helps them to stand apart in their sacerdotal duties.
I fear the next tradition to face challenge will be the Palace of Westminster with its huge potential cost of refurbishment. Here we have another conundrum threatening to cost billions to maintain it safe for wind and water and claimed by some to be wholly unsuitable for a 21st century democracy. Take one look at the hemispherical chamber of the European Parliament or the ghastly soullessness of the Scottish Parliament and I think there is something to be said for Pugin’s architecture as making a statement that links today and tomorrow with all our yesterdays.