The Politics of Parliamentary Restoration and Renewal: Decisions, Discretion, Democracy

The Politics of Parliamentary Restoration and Renewal: Decisions, Discretion, Democracy Abstract An extensive literature on aversive constitutionalism and elite blockages outlines the manner in which embedded political elites will generally reject or dilute reform agendas that threaten their privileged position within a constitutional configuration. It is for exactly this reason that the same seam of scholarship frequently highlights the role of crises in terms of providing a ‘window of opportunity’ through which a significant or fundamental recalibration of a political system may be achieved. ‘The Palace of Westminster’ the Joint Committee on Restoration and Renewal (R&R) concluded in September 2016 ‘faces an impending crisis which we cannot possibly ignore’. Their recommendation was that the Palace be completely vacated for five to eight years so that a multibillion-pound programme of rebuilding work can be undertaken. This article offers the first research-based analysis of the ‘Scoping & Planning’ stage (2012–2016) and reveals the ‘hidden politics’ of R&R in the sense of how it threatens both the British Political Tradition and the position of the two main parties. This explains the nature of the very closed and secretive decision-making processes that have characterised this stage and why a number of formative decision-making points that have been deployed to frame and restrict the reform parameters. Political science has for some time been concerned with understanding and explaining institutions, institutional behaviour and institutional change. The formal-legal focus of ‘old’ institutionalism has in recent decades been complemented by the emergence of the ‘new’ institutionalisms that adopt a broader and more sophisticated approach to how and why institutions work. There is, however, a basic rationality at play in the sense that an extensive literature on aversive constitutionalism and elite blockages outlines the manner in which embedded political elites will generally reject or dilute reform agendas that threaten their privileged position (see, e.g., Erdos, 2007; Schepple, 2003). The work of George Tsebelis (2002) is particularly relevant due to the manner in which it develops the concept of veto players within a legislative context and in relation to specific policy areas. A veto player is—put simply—a player in the political game with the capacity to prevent change from the status quo. There are clearly complex debates concerning the definition of ‘a veto’ and ‘a player’ for the simple reason that political interactions rarely operate through such definitive forms but the conceptual value of this approach to understanding how institutions work lies in the manner in which it reveals the existence of embedded but generally unequal or asymmetrical distributions of power within and between institutions. Any reform will therefore generally produce ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ that, in turn, explains the ebb and flow of reform demands and the role of crises in potentially jolting systems out of their pre-existing pathways. This focus on veto players and how institutions work provides the intellectual canvas for this article’s focus upon the proposed ‘restoration and renewal’ (R&R) programme for the Palace of Westminster—but with a twist. The institutional focus is therefore upon the physical home of the British Houses of Parliament and the fact that many features—heating, windows, ventilation, drainage, electrical systems, etc.,—have never undergone renovation since the ‘New’ Palace was built by Sir Charles Barry in the mid-1800s and are now antiquated and on the verge of collapse; the policy focus concerns the proposed multibillion pound rebuilding project that aims to remedy these structural deficiencies and deliver a parliament that is ‘fit for the twenty-first century’ which could, in theory, be quite different in terms of structures, procedures, design and culture to the existing institution; the agential focus revolves around the capacity and power of a relatively small number of backbench MPs and ministers to frustrate, control and narrow the agenda; and a twist is offered in the form of an approach that focuses upon the role of architecture and design in terms of (consciously and unconsciously) structuring politics and thereby embedding power. The core argument is that the R&R project is interpreted very much as a threat by the two main parties who have historically enjoyed a privileged political position within Arendt Lijphart’s (2012) exemplar of a power-hoarding majoritarian democracy. A threat, more specifically, due to the manner in which the physical design and architecture of the Palace of Westminster arguably serves to perpetuate a very specific executive-led model of politics that it would be irrational for any executive (or potential executive) to support altering (irrespective of the broader justifications for such a measure). This argument raises a set of questions concerning the policy space (narrow or wide), veto points, veto players and the decision-making process surrounding R&R (tight, narrow, elite or open, extensive, engaged) that cannot be easily separated from the dominant political culture. These are exactly the issues examined in this article using the results of a two-year research project that has tracked the emergence of R&R as a policy debate (primarily since 2012 through to the reports of both the Treasury Committee and Public Accounts Committee in March 2017). What this reveals is the existence of a sphere of contestation that has so far remained largely hidden but that actually raises quite fundamental questions about the future of British democracy. It is for exactly this reason that certain actors within the Houses of Parliament have sought to close-down and delimit the agenda while others (and actors beyond parliament) have sought to open-up the policy horizons of R&R. Two additional issues make this a particularly rich empirical terrain through which to explore institutional change and adaptation. The first is that R&R by its very nature focuses attention on the role of design and architecture in terms of structuring politics and ‘locking in’ a specific model of politics. The second is that in the case of R&R doing nothing is no longer an option. Although ‘players’ can attempt to influence or even define the ambitions or pace of R&R the simple fact is that extensive and expensive rebuilding work cannot be avoided. The physical fabric of the Palace is in need of urgent and far-reaching repairs due to the existence of dangerous asbestos, chaotic cabling, leaky roofs, hazardous pipework, unreliable plumbing, crumbling stonework, etc. Indeed, it is entirely conceivable that the building will have to be abandoned within a decade unless a comprehensive programme of renovations is completed, and the Pre-Feasibilty Report of 2012 notes that ‘the risk of catastrophic failure is increasing … [and] a major failing of the existing service infrastructure is inevitable’. The report went on to conclude that ‘[I]f the Palace of Westminster were not a listed building of the highest heritage value, its owners would probably be advised to demolish and rebuild’. For an internal report to make such stark conclusions underlines the politics of R&R in the sense that the Palace of Westminster is not simply ‘a building’ (and therefore R&R arguably should not be interpreted as little more than a ‘bricks and mortar’ project). It is a globally iconic symbol of democracy that in itself perpetuates, manifests and shapes political behaviour in very specific ways that favour some actors over others. It is for this reason that ‘restoring or renewing’ the building can (and has) been interpreted as a threat by some ‘players’ and an opportunity by others and this is exactly the hidden but quite fundamental politics that this article seeks to expose as part of its institutional analysis. In this regard, it makes four inter-linked arguments that also reflect the structure of the article. The British Political Tradition (BPT) matters due to the manner in which it forms the dominant interpretive lens through which R&R has and is being assessed. [The focus of Part I] The architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster matters because it was explicitly designed to embed a very specific type of politics. [The focus of Part II] R&R has therefore opened a ‘window of opportunity’ but the evidence suggests that the BPT has cast a restrictive influence over the policy space. [The focus of Part III] The significance of R&R goes far beyond British politics and raises far-reaching questions concerning the institutional adaptation of democratic institutions in a context defined by anti-politics. [The focus of Part IV] 1. Decision-making and the BPT The simple argument of this section is that the BPT or the British Political Culture—as adumbrated in the classic work of W.H. Greenleaf (1983, 1987)—matters. It matters due to the way in which it provides the dominant frame of reference through which R&R will be interpreted and assessed by the British political elite. It is therefore arguably impossible to understand the politics of R&R without some prior grasp of the values and principles of the BPT. Much has been written on both the nature of British politics and the BPT, and it is neither necessary nor possible to review this vast seam of scholarship here. Instead, our aim is to explicate what the BPT is and why it matters to fully understand the decision-making process surrounding R&R in later sections. In this regard it is possible to respond in three ways. In term of what the BPT is we argue that it provides an underpinning cultural morality that continues to influence attitudes towards, for example, decision-making processes, the scope of legitimate action, the parameters of public engagement, etc. It is an executive-centric tradition. In terms of why it matters we argue that the BPT underpins, legitimates and implicitly maintains a specific constitutional configuration that is generally labelled ‘the Westminster Model’. The final reason this focus on the BPT matters—and specifically in relation to R&R—is because it is to a great extent physically manifested in the architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster. This latter point is the focus of the next section but the remainder of this section looks at the first two of these arguments in slightly more detail. In many ways, the BPT takes us back to the earlier focus on veto players and the capacity of some actors to influence or block a change to the status quo. Multiple analyses have dissected the BPT and have highlighted its exclusionary nature, how it facilitates insulated elite modes of decision-making, the utilisation of informal modes of ‘club government’ and generally adopts a very limited (and suspicious) approach to public engagement. The BPT is therefore the cultural glue that cements the power-hoarding majoritarian democracy that Lijphart has tracked for decades (2012). The BPT is a conservative governing ideology that has historically been shared by both main political parties which is exactly why Marsh and Hall (2015, p. 13) conclude that it ‘retains strong support from those who benefit from it’. The shadow of the BPT has been identified in terms of political and policy outcomes. For example, the constraining impact of the BPT has been identified in the New Labour constitutional reform agenda (Evans, 2003; Marsh and Hall, 2007), and in the trajectory and parameters of parliamentary reform which has been underpinned by the binary logics of strong government and limited accountability (Flinders, 2002; Kelso, 2009), while political memoir analysis demonstrates the pervasiveness of the BPT in the thinking of political elites (Diamond and Richards, 2012). This is a critical point. Our argument is not that the BPT is uncontested—it certainly is within academic circles (see Bevir and Rhodes, 2003, 2006)—but our argument is that it remains a dominant cultural and institutional reference point among practitioners, in general, and within debates concerning R&R, in particular. The argument, for example, that MPs should not decant from the Palace of Westminster during the Brexit negotiations due to concerns about the impact of such a shift on the legitimacy of decisions or the ‘soft power’ of the UK draws sustenance from the powerful mythology of the BPT (House of Commons, 2017). The suggestion that R&R should be delayed on the basis that the Queen might die without the usual protocols for the lying-in-state of the monarch in Westminster Hall represent similar BPT-derived reservations (Walters, 2017). Taking this forward and drilling-down further into the BPT it is possible to suggest that it matters in relation to R&R for at least three reasons. First, in terms of process the BPT brings with it a well-known predilection for ‘muddling through’ in the sense of a Whiggish belief in organic institutional adaptation and change; the flipside being a cultural aversion to strategic thinking, blueprints or explicit design thinking. This, as later sections will illustrate, is of particular significance when it comes to understanding the current ‘crisis’ at Westminster and the failure of previous phases of restoration and renewal. Secondly, the BPT dovetails with a very specific institutional architecture (i.e. the Westminster Model) with an emphasis on the concentration of power in a single-party executive, executive dominance of the legislature, a two-party system, disproportional electoral system, centralised government, constitutional flexibility, etc. This institutional ‘model’ emphasises ‘strong and responsible government’ over ‘open, inclusive and representative government’ which, in turn, brings us back to the issue of ‘veto players’. The notion of parliamentary sovereignty ensures not only that parliament sits at the apex of the Westminster model but also that those in power will exert tight control over the institution so as not to lose their prized position. The utilisation of the BPT by the executive to reject reform demands is the focus of David Judge’s influential The Parliamentary State (1993) and particularly his concept of the ‘negative executive mentality’. The simple argument being made is that the BPT is likely to cast a highly restrictive shadow over the proposed R&R. Dominant elites are likely to interpret R&R primarily as a threat to their position, the decision-making process is therefore likely to be closed, elitist and tightly managed. A generally hidden political process is therefore likely to play out whereby the more significant or radical options within the policy space are closed-down, deemed unworkable and illegitimate from the very earliest stages. These are exactly the characteristics this research uncovers in relation to the initial stages of R&R between 2012 and 2017. However, before outlining the research on which this claim is made it is necessary to add value to our understanding of the BPT through a focus on why exactly architecture and design matter. The simple argument is that political science has generally failed to comprehend exactly why architecture and design matter. 2. Embedded power and the symbolism of parliaments TheBPTmatters, the previous section suggested, not simply because it embraces a specific set of values but also due to the manner in which it empowers a dominant political elite to veto (or eviscerate) specific reform proposals on the basis of their illegitimacy when judged against largely imagined constitutional criteria. The aim of this section is to highlight the link between this embedded power, this imagined constitution and the symbolism that is physically manifested in the architectural design of parliaments. This, in turn, helps to deepen our understanding of quite why R&R poses such a threat to the existing political elite and therefore why the use of elite blockages is likely to be so extensive. The simple argument is therefore that architecture and design matter because the Palace of Westminster was explicitly designed to embed a very specific type of politics. This is a ‘type’ of politics that some actors want to maintain and others want to redefine. It is neither necessary nor possible to provide an exhaustive account of the link between architecture and politics apart from suggesting that Charles Goodsell’s (1988) argument—made over 30 years ago—concerning the need for political science to pay more attention to the influence of architecture remains broadly true. Political science has generally failed to recognise, study or comprehend how physical space (buildings, light, paintings, statues, seating layouts, toilets, refreshment facilities, etc.) structures political behaviour which explains Gerry Stoker’s (2013) more recent criticism that it remains ‘methodologically and culturally ill-equipped’ to utilise the insights of design-thinking and design-practice. And yet we argue that the building (i.e. the Palace of Westminster) preserves the political traditions practiced within it or, more specifically it ‘perpetuates, manifests and shapes’—to paraphrase Goodsell (1988)—the exclusionary nature of the BPT. Parliaments are, as Vale (2008, p. 3) illustrates, symbolic buildings, which both embody and communicate myths about national power and identity. The grandeur and Gothic magnificence of the Palace, for example, exemplifies the once imperial UK state and the combined strength of its constituent nations. Its imposing limestone structure, topped with spires and turrets, abruptly defines the space within which political business is transacted. The exterior is spectacular and the Gothic style was chosen precisely to ‘articulate a hierarchical image of the political and social order’ in which authority and subordination structured public life (Cannadine, 2000, p. 15) or, as Kertzer (1988) suggests, to imbue parliamentary politics with a degree of ritual mystification that would clearly distinguish insiders from outsiders in a way which defines the contours of British democracy. The pre-democratic origins of the building are reflected in the lack of design-thinking about public access and within the building a lack of windows and lighting, poor acoustics, a labyrinthine layout and limited signage combine to restrict the nature of public engagement in terms of both quality and quantity. The layout of the House of Commons chamber with its adversarial layout, both configures and reinforces the political culture, while artificially maintaining the notion of a simple two-party state. We are not suggesting that the relationship between architectural design and political behaviour is a simple or easily identified institutional characteristic. Even the most cursory analysis of the relatively limited scholarship on this topic would quickly reveal a range of viewpoints. Charles Goodsell, for example, suggests buildings do have direct and deterministic behavioural effects while for John Parkinson (2012) the effects are more subtle and indirect in the sense that parliaments provide a physical site of democratic performance within which key democratic roles such as inclusive narration, claim-making, and decision-making take place against a backdrop of value-laden rituals and traditions. It is also true that buildings come to mean different things to different people at different moments of time and therefore their meaning and effects are not ‘set in stone’ (as emphasised in the work of scholars such as Amos Rapoport). We would, however, suggest that architecture and design—the structuration of space—in Westminster matters due to the manner in which the British political elite imbue it with the values and assumptions of the BPT and therefore act according to those strictures. Spatial characteristics therefore function as a set of symbols around which narratives and meanings have accumulated, through historical and cultural accretion and sedimentation, to the extent that they exert a forceful but largely intangible influence that is reinforced by the fact that they have been firmly and persistently anchored to the ‘building-as-symbol’. Therefore although the Palace of Westminster is a constantly evolving and adapting institution it is also one that is recognised for exhibiting a very distinctive set of cultural characteristics that have in recent years been revealed by scholars who have drawn upon the insights and methods of gendered institutionalism. In this regard, the work of Sarah Childs (2016) provides a direct link between the architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster, on the one hand, and on manner in which actors operating within that building (MPs, peers and staff) interpret or respond to contextual triggers (in this case perpetuating a distinctive brand or form of elite, masculinised and muscular politics). There is actually very little research that applies ‘good design’ or ‘intelligent design’ frameworks to parliaments and legislatures and therefore Childs’ adoption of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s assessment framework for gender sensitivity provides a major reference point from which it is possible to expose and tease-apart the politics of R&R. In fact what the analysis reveals is a set of embedded inequalities in both the physical design of the Palace of Westminster and in the rituals, ceremonies and procedures that are to some extent perpetuated by the physical fabric of the building. The language, the artwork, the modes of interaction that the physical layout creates, the use of space, the hours of parliament, the rules on permitting children in the chamber and committees, etc., were all not only gender insensitive but also not socially exclusive. For those familiar with the structure, processes and culture of parliament the conclusions of the Childs Report would not have been surprising. The Palace of Westminster was designed and intended to create exactly that aura of intimate, informal ‘club government’ (see Moran, 2003) in which tacit knowledge held sway. This is exactly what Winston Churchill sought to achieve in 1943 with his argument that ‘we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us’ (HC Deb, 28 October 1943, col. 403). He was referring to the debate concerning the rebuilding of the Commons chamber after it was bombed by the Luftwaffe and it was his strong opinion that the existing layout of the chamber had served the country well and should therefore be rebuilt as an exact replica of what had gone before. This decision was eventually carried but not without some challenge. The MP for South West Norfolk, Somerset De Chair, suggested ‘That is very true, but do they shape us so very well? … . We may not, therefore, conclude that the type of building we had before will necessarily produce the most sparkling Legislatures in the future’ (col. 463). Viscountess Astor took this further and cautioned that Churchill was looking ‘backwards instead of forwards’ and concluded: ‘I am certain that the Prime Minister is not in touch with the world that is coming, if he thinks that we ought to build a House of Commons exactly like the one we had’ (col. 417). Winston Churchill as a wartime Prime Minister was a dominant veto player. But the relevance of this debate is the manner in which all parties recognised the democratic and political significance of the architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster. Reformers viewed the bombing of the chamber as a ‘window of opportunity’ that might facilitate change but the political elite was able to control the agenda, orchestrate the decision-making process and close-down the debate. What is interesting about the Childs Report is that it similarly interprets the dilapidated state of the Palace of Westminster and the proposed R&R programme as an opportunity for innovation and change. The report therefore calls for the proposed Parliamentary Delivery Authority (PDA)—an arm’s-length organisation with responsibility for delivering the proposed work—to ‘trial new layouts in any decant chamber, and review provision of a new Chamber for the return to the Palace of Westminster’ (p. 37). Seats for all members in the chamber, increased flexibility in relation to layout, improved audio provision, more inclusionary parliamentary spaces, the redesign of committee rooms, sufficient toilet capacity and possibly even a brand new House of Commons chamber are all recommended as part of recipe for what is termed a ‘good parliament’. These recommendations, the architectural/design sensitivity and the use of language in the Childs Report highlight two core issues that provide a link or buckle between the previous section’s focus on the BPT (which Childs is essentially challenging) and the next section’s focus on what the initial decision-making process surrounding R&R reveals about the ‘politics of’ R&R (and therefore the extent to which the Childs Report’s recommendations are likely to find traction). The first issue revolves around pure politics, embedded power and path-dependency. Put very simply, Childs’ vision of a ‘good parliament’ actually revolves around the introduction of a different governing culture, a different model of politics and that this should be embedded through the architectural and design thinking that R&R facilitates. In Churchill’ian terms Childs (and a number of other scholars and commentators) want to reshape our buildings so that they, in turn, shape society differently in the future. From the position of the BPT what Childs promotes as an exemplar of a ‘good’ parliament could be interpreted very much as a ‘bad’ parliament due to the manner in which it seeks to shift the balance between representative and responsible government, facilitate greater public engagement and seeks to dilute or erase the power of specific historical symbols and conventions. This brings us to a second issue and a focus on scale. As comparative institutional analysis has revealed, there are different types or gradations of reform from relatively minor micropolitical changes or concessions through to major macropolitical ‘mega-constitutional’ transformations. As the opening section’s focus on the BPT underlined, the British constitution, in general, and parliamentary reform, in particular, has generally operated through minor but relatively constant changes that represent part of the ‘living’ or ‘organic’ constitution. This is often referred to—among both scholars and practitioners—as the ‘cracks and wedges’ thesis of parliamentary reform (see Wright, 2004) and means that change generally occurs through the imposition of relatively minor concessions in relation to rules or procedures which then provides a wedge that can be used to expand and develop the initial concession into a more significant change over time. But what this section has emphasised is that the architecture and design of the building also need to be understood not just in terms of reform pathways but also in relation to how they embed power and specific ways of thinking about politics. With this in mind, Table 1 draws upon the existing research base to offer a graded framework for the analysis of R&R. It offers a spectrum from radical macropolitical reforms through to more minor micropolitical changes. The value of this framework is that it offers an organising perspective through which to understand developments, positioning and game-playing in relation to R&R. It is also sensitive to historical patterns of change in the sense that the ‘cracks and wedges’ thesis basically suggests that change generally occurs through the expansion and development of what were originally fairly minor concessions by the executive. Veto players (returning to the Tsebelis’ian framework) are likely to focus on restricting the parameters of the policy space, and will utilise their formal and informal resources within the existing institutional framework to neutralise what they define as threats. The core argument of this section has been that it is the design and architecture of the Palace of Westminster—the building and the physical space—although rarely acknowledged, provides the foundations (theoretically and physically) for a quasi-elitist, relatively thin and definitely masculine form of politics. Major change is only therefore likely to occur in the wake of major regime challenges that undermine the position and resources of the existing political elite to prevent change. The next section uses Table 1 as a tool through which to tease apart the unfolding politics of R&R. Table 1 Gradations of parliamentary restoration and renewal Level  Definition  Examples  Macro-parliamentary [Major]  Underpinning elements of the physical fabric and design of parliament, which provide the foundation of the system while also generally ascribing a pattern or model of democracy.  Creation of a new parliamentary building. Creation of new House of Commons chamber. Shift away from adversarial seating layout. Redesign of spaces to fully incorporate public stakeholders in parliamentary activities. Radical adoption of ICT to link the physical footprint to the digital footprint.  Meso-parliamentary [Modest]  Secondary elements of the physical design of parliament that are shaped by or stem from the primary meta-constitutional dynamic.  Changes to committee rooms. Electronic voting in Parliament. New public spaces. Moves towards a child-friendly environment.  Micro-parliamentary [Minor]  Third-order elements that amend or supplement existing physical arrangements of parliament, without impacting on the underpinning logic of the political system.  New visitor centre, increased refreshment areas, more female or gender-sensitive toilets. Improved accessibility. Increased signage. Gender inclusive artwork.  Level  Definition  Examples  Macro-parliamentary [Major]  Underpinning elements of the physical fabric and design of parliament, which provide the foundation of the system while also generally ascribing a pattern or model of democracy.  Creation of a new parliamentary building. Creation of new House of Commons chamber. Shift away from adversarial seating layout. Redesign of spaces to fully incorporate public stakeholders in parliamentary activities. Radical adoption of ICT to link the physical footprint to the digital footprint.  Meso-parliamentary [Modest]  Secondary elements of the physical design of parliament that are shaped by or stem from the primary meta-constitutional dynamic.  Changes to committee rooms. Electronic voting in Parliament. New public spaces. Moves towards a child-friendly environment.  Micro-parliamentary [Minor]  Third-order elements that amend or supplement existing physical arrangements of parliament, without impacting on the underpinning logic of the political system.  New visitor centre, increased refreshment areas, more female or gender-sensitive toilets. Improved accessibility. Increased signage. Gender inclusive artwork.  3. Decision-making in the R&R process The aim of this section is to present the findings of research that has tracked and analysed the evolution of the proposed R&R programme since the 2012 Pre-Feasibility Report. It offers three main findings. The first identifies the existence of a quite fundamental political debate or polarisation concerning the aims and objectives of R&R. The ‘heritage approach’ adopts a broadly conservative lens and focuses on restoring and renewing the physical fabric of what already exists; the ‘democracy approach’ adopts a broader lens that interprets R&R as an opportunity to restore and renew the performance and perception of democratic politics more broadly. The second finding is that, in line with the arguments of Part I (above) the existing political elite is seeking to restrict and minimise the potential political impact of R&R through the adoption of a heritage-orientated emphasis and the utilisation of critical veto points and agenda-setting powers within the decision-making process. Therefore, the final main finding is that although the scope of the proposed R&R programme is far from definite, this early analysis suggests that macropolitical reforms that seek to dramatically ‘renew and restore’ the nature of British parliamentary democracy are unlikely to occur. More specifically (and thirdly) this analysis of the initial ‘exploratory phase’ (2012–2017) facilitates the chronological identification of what might be termed eight ‘narrowing points’, ‘elite veto points’ or ‘elite blockages’: #1 The January 2012 decision by the House of Commons Commission that no decision would be made until R&R until the 2015–2020 Parliament. #2 The initial 2012 decision to rule out the ‘new build’ option. #3 The October 2014 decision by the House of Commons Commission that the Independent Options Appraisal (IOA) would not be published until after the 2015 general election. #4 The limited ‘Outcome Levels’ that were contained in the IOA and were framed by the Pre-Feasibility Report. #5 The marginalisation of the public and democratic campaign groups by the Joint Committee. #6 The recommendation by the Joint Committee (JC) that decant chambers should replicate those of the Palace of Westminster. #7 The decisions of the Treasury and Public Accounts Committees in the House of Commons to launch inquiries into R&R in January 2017. #8 Delays by the government in timetabling the debate and vote on the recommendation of the JC in both House.The rest of this section provides the empirical basis and detailed analysis on which these arguments are based and begins with an account of the development of R&R in terms of framing, decision-stages and ‘players’. On the January and February 2012 agendas of the Houses of Commons Commission (House of Commons, 2012a) and the House of Lords House Committee (House of Lords, 2012a) respectively was the issue of the ‘Modernisation of the Palace of Westminster’. This was not a new issue, and the increased maintenance costs of the Palace had long been a perennial feature of the Palace administration. By 2012, however, the scale of the problem in terms of the decaying condition of the building was critical. The first elite blockage (#1) was recorded at this point, however, as its January 2012 the House of Commons Commission agreed a timescale for what was then termed the ‘Modernisation of the Palace of Westminster’: the agreed timescale delayed any decision on the future of the Palace until the 2015–2020 Parliament. Instead, a Study Group was appointed following those 2012 meetings, and commissioned to produce a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) including a full range of possibilities, ‘from either a new build Parliament or completely modernised Palace at one end of the spectrum, to a programme of managed replacement and condition-based maintenance at the other’ (Pre-Feasibility Study, 2012, p. 3). The report of the PFS Group adopted HM Treasury’s requirements for all public business cases, as set out in the Green Book, to focus on five dimensions: strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management. But the democratic case was not mentioned explicitly at all. Only the section focused on the ‘strategic case for change’ makes reference to this dimension of usage in terms of parliament as a ‘working institution’, noting that the building: [H]has to provide decent standards of accommodation for all those who work within it, or visit as citizens, as school children on educational trips or as witnesses to Parliamentary business, and the building has to support the modern ways in which Parliaments work with informal as well as formal meetings, digital information and mobile devices’ (Pre-Feasibility Study, 2012, p. 28).The report largely focused on listing the many ways in which the Palace of Westminster was in a state of significant material disrepair and thus in need of extensive building work. Crucially, the strategic case for change was clear that asset management was ‘the overwhelming driver for modernisation’, and that ‘other potential benefits, such as opportunities to improve security, access [and] circulation’ would be ‘by-products’ (Pre-Feasibility Study, 2012, p. 6). Therefore, while the PFS did include a broad range of options in its analysis, including that of a new building, the practical logic was always geared towards remaining on the existing site and focused on refurbishing the existing infrastructure. Indeed, when the House of Commons Commission (House of Commons, 2012b) and the House of Lords House Committee (House of Lords, 2012b) met (separately) in October 2012 to consider the PFS report, they each ruled out the option of constructing a new parliament building, and agreed that no further analysis of this option would be undertaken (#2). Crucially, neither committee outlined the reasons underpinning this decision, and no publicly available records of committee discussions of this point are available. Thus, analysis of the publicly available documentation fails to uncover how this important decision was made. This, coupled with the very limited attention given to the new building option in the PFS report, strongly suggests that the option was included simply so it could be said to have been included, but without compelling anyone seriously to consider it. Within just a few short months, therefore, the R&R programme parameters had been significantly narrowed. Our point here is not normative: we are not advocating the building of a new legislature for the UK. Our point is analytical in the sense that a core aim of the programme is to deliver a parliament that is ‘fit for the twenty-first century’ and therefore a detailed discussion of the design variables that would inform the creation of a new building (informed by recent international experience) would, at the very least, have created a benchmark, reference point or organising perspective against which to consider R&R at Westminster. Put slightly differently, the opening question should arguably have been ‘What do we want and how do we get it?’, as opposed to ‘What do we have and how do we adapt it?’ In addition, as Table 1 demonstrates, the key decisions which framed the R&R parameters were made by MPs and peers on the House of Commons Commission and House of Lords House Committee; that is, those actors who are most immersed in the political symbolism of the Palace, and who are typically identified by critics of the BPT as being at the heart of elitist and secretive decision-making. Indeed, the trajectory of R&R decision-making sketched here simply reinforces arguments about the pervasiveness of the BPT. This refurbishment-focused 2012 report therefore shaped the IOA report, produced by a commission led by Deloitte, and including AECOM and HOK, who were commissioned in December 2013, but were required to operate within the choice parameters dictated by their client, that is, the Houses of Parliament. The IOA report, was completed in September 2014. The House of Commons Commission has not stated when it received the report, but the minutes of its October 2014 state that the Commission agreed not to authorise the publication of the report until ‘June/July 2015’ (i.e. after the May 2015 general election which reflects the manner in which R&R is frequently described by MPs as a ‘toxic issue’). This was a further elite blockage, delaying scrutiny or examination of the findings (i.e. #3). The IOA report provided a highly detailed analysis of how the R&R might proceed in practice in relation to three delivery options, each of which mapped different levels of ‘decanting’ of parliament from the Palace while the work took place, and in relation to three different outcome levels in terms of the extent of the work undertaken. In offering specific information in terms of costs, parliamentary decant options and proposals for renovating existing parts of the Palace to create more space, the IOA report responded directly to the strategic case laid out by the PFS Group. Table 2 provides the summary of the potential Scenarios outlined by the IOA, and the shaded boxes identify the shortlisted Scenarios. Outcome Level A provides for a basic level of R&R, while the Outcome Level C provides for the repurposing of some parliamentary areas (Deloitte, 2015, p. 6). Table 2 Key decision-stages in the R&R programme Decision-stage  Task/outcome  Actors  Study commissioned on Palace modernisation options, January 2012  Agreement on need for PFS Group to review relevant documentation and examine full range of modernisation possibilities from new build/full modernisation, to managed replacement and maintenance.  House of Commons Commission: Mr Speaker (chair), Leader of the House, 4 other MPs.  House of Lords House Committee: Lord Speaker (chair), assorted peers, Clerk of the Parliaments, assorted clerks, parliamentary management staff.  PFS Group established, January 2012  Analysis of Palace condition, delineation of strategic case for change, mapping of decant strategy and issues.  Dr Richard Ware (Director): previously director of UK Parliament ICT and Resources. Parliamentary Director of Estates. Mary Ollard Lords Representative. Industry input (Tim Ainger, partner of Gardiner and Theobald LLP, non-executive member of Parliamentary Estates Board). 2 Members from each House of Parliament respectively.  Consideration of PFS Report, October 2012  Rejection of option for a new parliament building.  House of Commons Commission (see above).  Commissioning of fuller R&R options analysis to include detailed costings and decant strategies.  House of Lords House Committee (see above).  IOA published, July 2015  Delivery of full Scenarios for R&R, decant options, costings.  Deloitte Real Estate, AECOM, HOK.  JC on the Palace of Westminster established, July 2015  Consideration of IOA report, recommendation of Scenario decision to Houses of Parliament.  Committee established by motions in both Houses.  Recruitment of Architectural, Design and Project Management consortia, April 2016  Consideration of ‘suitable’ candidates in terms of professional skills and experience.  Four companies short-listed but final decision awaiting debate and vote to proceed in both Houses.  Publication of JC Report, September 2016  To review the IOA report and make a recommendation to both Houses concerning the most appropriate reform pathway.  Leader of the House of Commons (co-chair).  Leader of the House of Lords (co-chair).  5 MPs, 5 peers.  Decision-stage  Task/outcome  Actors  Study commissioned on Palace modernisation options, January 2012  Agreement on need for PFS Group to review relevant documentation and examine full range of modernisation possibilities from new build/full modernisation, to managed replacement and maintenance.  House of Commons Commission: Mr Speaker (chair), Leader of the House, 4 other MPs.  House of Lords House Committee: Lord Speaker (chair), assorted peers, Clerk of the Parliaments, assorted clerks, parliamentary management staff.  PFS Group established, January 2012  Analysis of Palace condition, delineation of strategic case for change, mapping of decant strategy and issues.  Dr Richard Ware (Director): previously director of UK Parliament ICT and Resources. Parliamentary Director of Estates. Mary Ollard Lords Representative. Industry input (Tim Ainger, partner of Gardiner and Theobald LLP, non-executive member of Parliamentary Estates Board). 2 Members from each House of Parliament respectively.  Consideration of PFS Report, October 2012  Rejection of option for a new parliament building.  House of Commons Commission (see above).  Commissioning of fuller R&R options analysis to include detailed costings and decant strategies.  House of Lords House Committee (see above).  IOA published, July 2015  Delivery of full Scenarios for R&R, decant options, costings.  Deloitte Real Estate, AECOM, HOK.  JC on the Palace of Westminster established, July 2015  Consideration of IOA report, recommendation of Scenario decision to Houses of Parliament.  Committee established by motions in both Houses.  Recruitment of Architectural, Design and Project Management consortia, April 2016  Consideration of ‘suitable’ candidates in terms of professional skills and experience.  Four companies short-listed but final decision awaiting debate and vote to proceed in both Houses.  Publication of JC Report, September 2016  To review the IOA report and make a recommendation to both Houses concerning the most appropriate reform pathway.  Leader of the House of Commons (co-chair).  Leader of the House of Lords (co-chair).  5 MPs, 5 peers.  The decision at this point returned to Parliament, with the appointment of the JC on the Palace of Westminster, in July 2015, to consider the IOA report. The Committee was appointed following motions in both Houses, but it is important to note that the Houses were asked to agree an already decided list of Members from both Houses. No minutes or details on how the Committee membership was chosen have been published; and even the decision on the party balance on the Committee was made by ‘the usual channels’, rather than in a transparent manner (HL Deb, 20 July 2015, col. 902). In November 2015, the JC launched a public consultation on two key issues: the scope of the refurbishment work to be undertaken (i.e. ‘Outcomes’), and how the work should be delivered (i.e. ‘Delivery Options’). That consultation is considered below, but for now we can complete our sketch of the R&R decision-process thus far with the formal recommendations of the Joint Committee, published in September 2016 and which advocated a full decant (HC659, 2016). The process since the publication of this report has, however, reflected the politics of R&R that this article seeks to bring to the fore. On 10 March 2017, the Public Accounts Committee (HC1005, 2017) examined R&R and recommended swift action: ‘Our conclusion is clear: the option favoured by the Joint Committee is most likely to be the most economical, effective and efficient choice’; only for the Treasury Committee to publish a report seven days later (HC1097, 2017) calling for a fundamental review of the whole project that would even revisit the initial brief underpinning the Deloitte-led IOA. ‘Until this work has been carried out it’ the Treasury Committee concluded ‘it is our view that it would be imprudent for the House to commit to a specific option or timetable’ (para. 14). The bottom line is that over six-months after the JC made its recommendation to parliament the future of the R&R programme appears, if anything, more uncertain despite the growing evidence of an escalating risk of a catastrophic failure in the physical infrastructure of the building. Moreover, although the politics of R&R is generally playing out behind the scenes at Westminster it is attracting increased media attention and condemnation. An editorial in The Times (3 April 2017), for example, noted: As the Houses of Parliament crumble and leak around them, ministers are postponing an urgent but straightforward decision on how to repair them. Influential backbenchers are meanwhile lobbying for an unnecessarily complex and expensive plan that would serve no one’s interests but their own.A number of points emerge from this brief account of the initial 2012–2017 decision-making process. First, while the scope of the project may have been theoretically expansive at the Pre-Feasibility Report stage, when the option of a new parliament building was at least included in the remit, that scope subsequently narrowed considerably with the immediate exclusion of the ‘new build’ option. The thrust of R&R was from that point arguably engineered more towards a heritage-focused project rather than any sort of democracy-focused initiative (discussed further below). As a result (and secondly), when viewed through reform gradations of Table 1 the proposed restoration and renewal works are minimal and generally retain a strong preference for continuity over change (i.e. a key aspect of the BPT). The difference between Outcome Levels A, B and C is very small (i.e. #4) and when viewed against the graded reform profiles of Table 1 the plans arguably focus on a limited number of micropolitical enhancements while essentially ‘renewing and restoring’ the existing building. Veto players on the House of Commons Commission and House of Lords House Committee were therefore able to effective define the parameters of R&R from the outset and subsequent reports and inquiries have worked very much within that set pathway. Moreover, the policy space has been tightly controlled through the patronage of party managers who agreed the party balance of the JC (which was co-chaired by government ministers) but also subsequently through the government’s control of when the joint committee’s vote will be debated and voted upon. And yet to describe a simple process of tight executive management would be to overlook the existence of more subtle and multi-levelled games. There is a ‘politics within politics’ dimension of R&R that deserves comment. In a risk-averse and generally conservative institution where change has historically occurred at a glacial pace and in which the majority of the existing political elite will view any reform agenda as a potential threat to their position rather than an opportunity there is clearly a need to step softly when considering or framing projects, especially when their implications are potentially so far-reaching as R&R. Moreover with the support of both houses necessary for R&R to proceed, there was clearly political advantage to be gained by framing R&R as a purely technical heritage-based project in which the democratic reform implications were over-looked. To do otherwise would have been to almost guarantee a lack of support within parliament and the rejection of any plans. What is therefore noticeable about the official documentation surrounding the R&R programme is that it is almost depoliticised in terms of tone and content. Making R&R too overtly ‘political’ would only ‘spook the horses’. This technocratic, linear project-management approach can be read three ways. The first would see this as wholly appropriate given the fact that R&R is inevitably going to be a complex ‘mega-project’ and the IOA was quite correctly operating within the formal project parameters set down out of the Pre-feasibility Study (PFS). A second and more politicised reading might interpret this highly technical framing of R&R as an attempt by the existing political elite to close-down and supress the demands of those who have more extensive democratic ambitions for R&R (i.e. they want it to ‘unlock’ the current political equilibrium). But there is also a third interpretation that would explain depoliticisation at this stage as the rational strategy of an ardent reform advocate or constitutional entrepreneur. In effect, this strategy would play-down the reform implications of R&R at this stage to allow a degree of policy-momentum and public debate to develop at which point it may be harder for the government to control the agenda and easier for the policy space to be expanded. Given that the current decision-making and framing process surrounding R&R has been dominated by no more than a dozen people with close connections to the two main parties that have traditionally been wedded to the Westminster model suggests that this third interpretation might be slightly optimistic. Indeed, what the detailed analysis of R&R reveals is incredibly tight control over the review and discussion surrounding R&R. This is something the Speaker of the House of Commons recognised in October 2016 when he called for a ‘national conversation’ about the opportunities R&R offered for thinking differently about politics (see Bercow, 2017). The Pre-Feasibility Report has also been aware of the potential public backlash from spending billions of pounds on the Palace of Westminster in a period dominated by anti-political sentiment and economic austerity. Parliament would have to be ‘proactive in communication’ to focus on long-term benefits of refurbishment the report argued (2012, p. 66) but this was not an approach adopted by the JC during its inquiry. A ‘call for evidence’ was published and theoretically facilitated public engagement but the terms of the inquiry and the specific questions set out in the call were incredibly technocratic and narrow. Of the 12 consultation questions set out by the Joint Committee, only 4 were targeted at the public, with the remainder focused on the collecting views of MPs and parliamentary staff, and this framing of the consultation arguably illustrates the degree to which it is shaped around serving the needs of parliamentary actors. In addition, the consultation approach chosen by the JC involves the standard select committee model (i.e. a call for evidence posted on the website and an invitation to submit written responses) with no account given to recent Liaison Committee advice regarding innovative outreach (HC470, 2015). In addition, the JC held only two oral evidence sessions as part of its inquiry work, which was remarkable given the significance of the topic under consideration. And yet as Peter Blundell Jones and Doina Petrescu’s Architecture and Participation (2005) illustrates, opening up questions regarding architectural restoration or redesign to processes of public engagement risks, to some extent, losing control over a process. Advocates of far-reaching change might size the agenda or unexpected options suddenly become the focus of populist pressures. Such risks are anathema to the BPT and instead the work of the JC suggests the conscious marginalisation of the public at that stage in the process (i.e. #5). This is further confirmed by the analysis of the oral evidence sessions. Key politicians were invited to offer their opinions on R&R, as were representatives of the media, heritage specialists, engineers and project managers but civic groups and campaign organisations were not. Once again this could be interpreted as a rational approach for even the most reform-minded committee or politician due to the need to secure the approval of both houses for R&R to progress to the next level. It could, however, be seen as simply the approach of a political elite that has no interest in reforming an institution that serves it so well and in this regard. Moreover, in terms of identifying elite blockages and the narrowing or closing-off of options what is interesting about the JC’s final report is that although it does recommend the full decant option (i.e. Option 3, Table 3) it does seek to veto the opportunity for testing and assessing institutional innovations (i.e. #6). In complete opposition to the recommendations of the Childs Report and other commentators, the JC suggests under their ‘recommended criteria for temporary accommodation’ that, ‘The general floor space and layout of the two Chambers should be replicated as far as possible in temporary accommodation (p. 65)’ and ‘The division lobbies should, as far as possible, be replicated’ (p. 66). Table 3 R&R of the Palace of Westminster, options and estimates   Option 1 (rolling decant)  Option 2 (partial decant)  Option 3 (full decant)  Outcome Level A  E1A  2A  3A  £5.67bn  £3.94bn  25–40 years  9–14 years  32 years most likely  11 years most likely  Outcome Level B  1B  2B  3B  £4.42bn  £3.52bn  9–14 years  5–8 years  11 most likely  6 most likely  Outcome Level C  1C  2C  3C  £3.87bn  5–8 years  6 most likely    Option 1 (rolling decant)  Option 2 (partial decant)  Option 3 (full decant)  Outcome Level A  E1A  2A  3A  £5.67bn  £3.94bn  25–40 years  9–14 years  32 years most likely  11 years most likely  Outcome Level B  1B  2B  3B  £4.42bn  £3.52bn  9–14 years  5–8 years  11 most likely  6 most likely  Outcome Level C  1C  2C  3C  £3.87bn  5–8 years  6 most likely  Source: Deloitte (2015, pp. 5, 10–15). This in turn is indicative of a preference for the status quo and an awareness that the simple process of decanting and establishing a temporary chamber that will sit for at least six years will inevitably affect the culture and expectations of members: it will affect the BPT. The temporary chamber is likely to be better equipped than the chamber of the Lords or Commons in terms of IT, wi-fi, acoustics, heating and may even offer each and every MP their own seat (although the limited space in the proposed decant option makes this unlikely). Well before the JC had published Oonagh Gay had already highlighted the possible reform-impact of decant by suggesting that ‘if MPs become used to more spacious and well-equipped facilities, maybe with electronic voting, they might be reluctant to return to a mere restoration with traditional lobbies. Similarly the public may well want more transparent ways of seeing legislators at work than restricted seating in galleries well above the chambers’. To some extent the JC has attempted to close-down the policy space and options surrounding the decant. Whether this strategy will actually work is currently unclear and depends to a large extent on how the government responds to the divergent recommendations contained in the Treasury Select Committee and Public Accounts Committee reports of March 2017 (#7) and if a debate and vote is held on the JC’s recommendation. TheJC’s response stated that it was ‘essential that the R&R Programme now proceeds to its next stages [the parliamentary debate and vote] without delay’ but—as already mentioned—the Government has consistently declined to schedule this debate, and as the executive retains control of parliamentary time, this has prevented the debate from taking place, and thus blocked the R&R programme from proceeding (#8). This point dovetails with the Treasury’s Committee’s broader criticism that ‘the process by which and by whom some decisions have been taken on restoration and renewal to date are opaque’ (HC1097, 2017, para. 6). The research presented in this article suggests that this criticism is valid and encourages us to consider why this finding actually matters vis-à-vis a number of broader debates about the future of democratic governance and its institutions. 5. How institutions (do not) work Although the empirical focus of this article has been on the proposed R&R of the Palace of Westminster, its main focus has actually been upon the broader theme of institutional adaptation. The insight that Tsebelis offers in this context is a focus on veto players and embedded political elites who are likely to have few incentives to support reforms that are intended to weaken their position. The added value of the approach offered in this article has centred around it focus on the role of architecture and design in terms of physically embedding certain ‘rules of the game’ that will inevitably favour some groups, parties or individuals above others. This is frequently reflected in the assumed link between ‘new parliaments’ and ‘new politics’ that is illustrated in the global architectural and design surveys that include XML’s Parliament project (2016) and Christian Kuhn’s PLENUM: Places of Power (2014). What these surveys rarely explore, however, is the politics of parliamentary restoration, renewal or even abolition in terms of the resources and powers that different actors utilise to facilitate or block change. The main conclusion of this article is that the analysis of the initial ‘Scoping & Planning’ between 2012 and 2017 suggests that a process of aversive constitutionalism is ensnaring or suffocating the proposed R&R. The democratic potential of R&R is being denied, rejected and to some extent deemed illegitimate with the BPT acting as a legitimating constitutional touchstone. Aspirational constitutionalism, in contrast and to adopt the insights provided by Scheppele (2003), refers to a process of constitution or polity building in which decision-makers understand what they are attempting to achieve and why. It is forward looking, inclusive and confident. It might then be argued that reports such as Childs’ The Good Parliament report or the Design Commission’s Designing Democracy report of 2015 reveal an aspirational approach to R&R; the reports of the parliamentary committees a more aversive approach. It could be argued that the cultural dynamics of the British constitution has always been imbued with aversive constitutionalism and therefore this approach should not be surprising. And yet what this analysis has attempted to bring to the fore is the manner in which the physical space of the Palace of Westminster is infused with this constitutional morality. This creates an institutional trap and complex bargaining games that are likely to produce gridlock and inaction. The question is then really whether the institutions of democratic governance can afford to reject the increasing public demands for greater evidence of innovation and engagement. Do established parliaments and legislatures possess the adaptive capacity to play a role in closing the gap that seems to have emerged between the governors and the governed? The literature on post-democracy and the life and death of politics—not to mention the ‘suicide’, ‘end’ or ‘crisis’ of democracy—reminds us that the proposed R&R is taking place within a far larger sociopolitical context. It is for this reason that the remainder of this concluding section briefly examines the implications of this article vis-à-vis a number of micro-, meso- and macro-political debates. In terms of the micropolitics of R&R and the future of the Palace of Westminster remains opaque. What is clear from the analysis offered above is that R&R currently lacks any clear ‘vision’ and that no constitutional entrepreneur with such a vision and the capacity to remove internal blockages has emerged. Indeed, the reverse is true in the sense that R&R is largely viewed by MPs and peers as a toxic issue to be avoided at all costs. As a result very basic questions exist as to the ownership of the programme, the division of responsibilities between actors and core strategic ambitions. This latter point is critical. The current core aims of R&R include a commitment to (i) protect the physical heritage of a Grade 1 listed World Heritage Site, while also (ii) delivering a parliament that is fit for the 21st century. And yet how exactly a ‘parliament fit for the twenty-first century’ can be retrofitted into an ancient royal palace subject to extensive heritage preservation orders remains unclear. This explains the concern of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) member of the Joint Committee, Neil Gray MP, about whether R&R was ‘artificially crowbarring a parliament into an old palace at a premium?’ This raises ongoing questions about the initial decision to reject the ‘new build’ option so early in the policy process but this in itself may have reflected the existence of complex bargaining and game playing within the internal processes to achieve at least some movement. Potential elite blockages can therefore be removed but only through the granting of concessions that are likely to bring the point of equilibrium back towards the status quo (as arguably occurred in relation to the internal dynamics of the JC). And yet the broader and long-term risks of this tendency was highlighted by the JC when it noted, It would be an error for Parliament to miss this rare opportunity to deliver a more open, efficient, inclusive and outward-facing parliamentary building… . Future generations will not thank us if we fail to seize [this] opportunity and instead preserve for posterity all the obstacles to public access and to the effective working of Parliament which the building currently embodies (para. 247).The phrase ‘which the building currently embodies’ reintroduces the issues of architecture and design. Indeed a provocative argument could be made that the real problem for those who want R&R to adopt a more innovative, expansive and democracy-orientated approach that acknowledges the extent of anti-political sentiment is that the ‘crisis’ and ‘catastrophic failures’ that several reports have now highlighted remain existential threats. A major fire, flood, sewerage leak, stonework collapse or outbreak of asbestos poisoning would suddenly facilitate both the public debate and the wide review of options that is currently being restricted by the existing institutional structure. This can be labelled the ‘Fawkes thesis’ but a major institutional crisis would at least remove or downgrade heritage considerations and shift the focus away from the current starting point (i.e. What do we have and how do we adapt it?) towards a more open (aspirational) discussion of ‘What do we want and how do we get it?’ And yet this question in itself forces us to step back and adopt a broader analytical and comparative perspective. R&R represents a major opportunity for the political and social sciences to play a role in democratic design, testing new innovations and generally providing an evidence base on which decisions could be based. The dilemma, however, arises from the fact (as outlined above) that political science is not well-placed to respond to this demand-side signal. The existing research base on, for example, the impact of seating arrangements on political behaviour or the impact of electronic voting on decision-making is surprisingly thin. The paradox here is that although a growing evidence base exists in relation to ‘intelligent design’ within architectural and design studies that reveals the impact of spatial factors such as windows, light and acoustics on, for example, student attainment levels or patient recovery times the implications or relevance of these findings for parliaments and legislatures remains unexamined. This flows into a broader comparative point in the sense that the UK is clearly not unique in the sense of having to deal with major structural challenges or questions about the suitability of its legislative buildings. The major refurbishment of the Canadian parliament in Ottawa—the ‘rehabilitation of Parliament Hill’—is probably the most similar ongoing project to R&R currently underway in the world but has not been the topic of detailed scholarly or lesson-learning analysis. The renovation of the Reichstag in Berlin also has major relevance due to its explicit ambitions to blend history with a radical architectural departures—notably in relation to the use of light, public space and the addition of a major glass cupola—that were designed to symbolise a new phase in German political history; and in terms of ‘new-builds’ the architecture and design of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly of Wales was explicitly intended to prevent the replication of majoritarian politics in Edinburgh and Cardiff. The new Georgian parliament in Kutaisi—a massive glass dome—is physically and geographically intended to represent a clear break with the country’s political past and has not been located close to the government buildings on Tbilisi; whereas in India the constitutionally ascribed link between population and representation has created institutional pressures for expansion that can only be accommodated through the creation of a new parliamentary complex. The links with the current situation in Westminster are obvious but three issues flow out of this international landscape. The first is that the internal planning documents regarding R&R have generally been quite parochial in the sense that similar projects around the world have hardly been mentioned, let alone carefully examined to identify key insights, good practice, etc. The second issue revolves around the lack of comparative political analysis on the design or architecture of parliaments around the world, let alone on the political dynamics underlying critical design and architectural decisions. This, in turn, leads back to a more disciplinary set of questions concerning impact and engagement and whether a more explicit and ambitious design-oriented model of political science might offer a critical ‘road to relevance’ that has so far been largely overlooked. But at the broadest level the significance of the proposed R&R of the Palace of Westminster arguably rests upon its relationship to broader narratives and concerns regarding ‘the life and death of democracy’ (Keane, 2010) which have already highlighted the emergence of post-parliamentary, post-representative, post-democratic forms of politics. Whether parliament can demonstrate its continued relevance and adaptive qualities in this broader context and offer a more aspirational approach by seeing R&R as an opportunity rather than a threat remains to be seen. Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. References Bercow J. ( 2017) ‘ Designing for Democracy’ Parliamentary Affairs , DOI: 10.1093/pa/gsw037. Bevir M., Rhodes R. A. W. ( 2003) Interpreting British Governance , London, Routledge. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Bevir M., Rhodes R. A. W. ( 2006) Governance Stories , London, Routledge. Cannadine D. 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House of Commons ( 2012a) ‘House of Commons Commission Bulletin’, 26 January 2012. House of Commons ( 2012b) ‘House of Commons Commission Bulletin’, 29 October 2012. House of Lords ( 2012a) ‘House of Lords Committee: Minutes’, 28 February 2012, H/10-12. House of Lords ( 2012b) ‘House of Lords House Committee: Minutes’, 30 October 2012, H/12-13. Judge D. ( 1993) The Parliamentary State , London, Sage. Keane J. ( 2010) The Life and Death of Democracy , London, Simon & Schuster. Kelso A. ( 2009) Parliamentary Reform at Westminster , Manchester, Manchester University Press. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Kertzer D. I. ( 1988) Ritual, Politics and Power , New Haven, CT, Yale University Press. Kuhn C. ( 2014) Plenum: Places of Power , Basel, Switzerland, Birkhauser Verlag AG. Lijphart A. ( 2012) Patterns of Democracy , Yale, CT, Yale University Press. Marsh D., Hall M. 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Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Hansard Society; all rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Parliamentary Affairs Oxford University Press

The Politics of Parliamentary Restoration and Renewal: Decisions, Discretion, Democracy

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Abstract An extensive literature on aversive constitutionalism and elite blockages outlines the manner in which embedded political elites will generally reject or dilute reform agendas that threaten their privileged position within a constitutional configuration. It is for exactly this reason that the same seam of scholarship frequently highlights the role of crises in terms of providing a ‘window of opportunity’ through which a significant or fundamental recalibration of a political system may be achieved. ‘The Palace of Westminster’ the Joint Committee on Restoration and Renewal (R&R) concluded in September 2016 ‘faces an impending crisis which we cannot possibly ignore’. Their recommendation was that the Palace be completely vacated for five to eight years so that a multibillion-pound programme of rebuilding work can be undertaken. This article offers the first research-based analysis of the ‘Scoping & Planning’ stage (2012–2016) and reveals the ‘hidden politics’ of R&R in the sense of how it threatens both the British Political Tradition and the position of the two main parties. This explains the nature of the very closed and secretive decision-making processes that have characterised this stage and why a number of formative decision-making points that have been deployed to frame and restrict the reform parameters. Political science has for some time been concerned with understanding and explaining institutions, institutional behaviour and institutional change. The formal-legal focus of ‘old’ institutionalism has in recent decades been complemented by the emergence of the ‘new’ institutionalisms that adopt a broader and more sophisticated approach to how and why institutions work. There is, however, a basic rationality at play in the sense that an extensive literature on aversive constitutionalism and elite blockages outlines the manner in which embedded political elites will generally reject or dilute reform agendas that threaten their privileged position (see, e.g., Erdos, 2007; Schepple, 2003). The work of George Tsebelis (2002) is particularly relevant due to the manner in which it develops the concept of veto players within a legislative context and in relation to specific policy areas. A veto player is—put simply—a player in the political game with the capacity to prevent change from the status quo. There are clearly complex debates concerning the definition of ‘a veto’ and ‘a player’ for the simple reason that political interactions rarely operate through such definitive forms but the conceptual value of this approach to understanding how institutions work lies in the manner in which it reveals the existence of embedded but generally unequal or asymmetrical distributions of power within and between institutions. Any reform will therefore generally produce ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ that, in turn, explains the ebb and flow of reform demands and the role of crises in potentially jolting systems out of their pre-existing pathways. This focus on veto players and how institutions work provides the intellectual canvas for this article’s focus upon the proposed ‘restoration and renewal’ (R&R) programme for the Palace of Westminster—but with a twist. The institutional focus is therefore upon the physical home of the British Houses of Parliament and the fact that many features—heating, windows, ventilation, drainage, electrical systems, etc.,—have never undergone renovation since the ‘New’ Palace was built by Sir Charles Barry in the mid-1800s and are now antiquated and on the verge of collapse; the policy focus concerns the proposed multibillion pound rebuilding project that aims to remedy these structural deficiencies and deliver a parliament that is ‘fit for the twenty-first century’ which could, in theory, be quite different in terms of structures, procedures, design and culture to the existing institution; the agential focus revolves around the capacity and power of a relatively small number of backbench MPs and ministers to frustrate, control and narrow the agenda; and a twist is offered in the form of an approach that focuses upon the role of architecture and design in terms of (consciously and unconsciously) structuring politics and thereby embedding power. The core argument is that the R&R project is interpreted very much as a threat by the two main parties who have historically enjoyed a privileged political position within Arendt Lijphart’s (2012) exemplar of a power-hoarding majoritarian democracy. A threat, more specifically, due to the manner in which the physical design and architecture of the Palace of Westminster arguably serves to perpetuate a very specific executive-led model of politics that it would be irrational for any executive (or potential executive) to support altering (irrespective of the broader justifications for such a measure). This argument raises a set of questions concerning the policy space (narrow or wide), veto points, veto players and the decision-making process surrounding R&R (tight, narrow, elite or open, extensive, engaged) that cannot be easily separated from the dominant political culture. These are exactly the issues examined in this article using the results of a two-year research project that has tracked the emergence of R&R as a policy debate (primarily since 2012 through to the reports of both the Treasury Committee and Public Accounts Committee in March 2017). What this reveals is the existence of a sphere of contestation that has so far remained largely hidden but that actually raises quite fundamental questions about the future of British democracy. It is for exactly this reason that certain actors within the Houses of Parliament have sought to close-down and delimit the agenda while others (and actors beyond parliament) have sought to open-up the policy horizons of R&R. Two additional issues make this a particularly rich empirical terrain through which to explore institutional change and adaptation. The first is that R&R by its very nature focuses attention on the role of design and architecture in terms of structuring politics and ‘locking in’ a specific model of politics. The second is that in the case of R&R doing nothing is no longer an option. Although ‘players’ can attempt to influence or even define the ambitions or pace of R&R the simple fact is that extensive and expensive rebuilding work cannot be avoided. The physical fabric of the Palace is in need of urgent and far-reaching repairs due to the existence of dangerous asbestos, chaotic cabling, leaky roofs, hazardous pipework, unreliable plumbing, crumbling stonework, etc. Indeed, it is entirely conceivable that the building will have to be abandoned within a decade unless a comprehensive programme of renovations is completed, and the Pre-Feasibilty Report of 2012 notes that ‘the risk of catastrophic failure is increasing … [and] a major failing of the existing service infrastructure is inevitable’. The report went on to conclude that ‘[I]f the Palace of Westminster were not a listed building of the highest heritage value, its owners would probably be advised to demolish and rebuild’. For an internal report to make such stark conclusions underlines the politics of R&R in the sense that the Palace of Westminster is not simply ‘a building’ (and therefore R&R arguably should not be interpreted as little more than a ‘bricks and mortar’ project). It is a globally iconic symbol of democracy that in itself perpetuates, manifests and shapes political behaviour in very specific ways that favour some actors over others. It is for this reason that ‘restoring or renewing’ the building can (and has) been interpreted as a threat by some ‘players’ and an opportunity by others and this is exactly the hidden but quite fundamental politics that this article seeks to expose as part of its institutional analysis. In this regard, it makes four inter-linked arguments that also reflect the structure of the article. The British Political Tradition (BPT) matters due to the manner in which it forms the dominant interpretive lens through which R&R has and is being assessed. [The focus of Part I] The architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster matters because it was explicitly designed to embed a very specific type of politics. [The focus of Part II] R&R has therefore opened a ‘window of opportunity’ but the evidence suggests that the BPT has cast a restrictive influence over the policy space. [The focus of Part III] The significance of R&R goes far beyond British politics and raises far-reaching questions concerning the institutional adaptation of democratic institutions in a context defined by anti-politics. [The focus of Part IV] 1. Decision-making and the BPT The simple argument of this section is that the BPT or the British Political Culture—as adumbrated in the classic work of W.H. Greenleaf (1983, 1987)—matters. It matters due to the way in which it provides the dominant frame of reference through which R&R will be interpreted and assessed by the British political elite. It is therefore arguably impossible to understand the politics of R&R without some prior grasp of the values and principles of the BPT. Much has been written on both the nature of British politics and the BPT, and it is neither necessary nor possible to review this vast seam of scholarship here. Instead, our aim is to explicate what the BPT is and why it matters to fully understand the decision-making process surrounding R&R in later sections. In this regard it is possible to respond in three ways. In term of what the BPT is we argue that it provides an underpinning cultural morality that continues to influence attitudes towards, for example, decision-making processes, the scope of legitimate action, the parameters of public engagement, etc. It is an executive-centric tradition. In terms of why it matters we argue that the BPT underpins, legitimates and implicitly maintains a specific constitutional configuration that is generally labelled ‘the Westminster Model’. The final reason this focus on the BPT matters—and specifically in relation to R&R—is because it is to a great extent physically manifested in the architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster. This latter point is the focus of the next section but the remainder of this section looks at the first two of these arguments in slightly more detail. In many ways, the BPT takes us back to the earlier focus on veto players and the capacity of some actors to influence or block a change to the status quo. Multiple analyses have dissected the BPT and have highlighted its exclusionary nature, how it facilitates insulated elite modes of decision-making, the utilisation of informal modes of ‘club government’ and generally adopts a very limited (and suspicious) approach to public engagement. The BPT is therefore the cultural glue that cements the power-hoarding majoritarian democracy that Lijphart has tracked for decades (2012). The BPT is a conservative governing ideology that has historically been shared by both main political parties which is exactly why Marsh and Hall (2015, p. 13) conclude that it ‘retains strong support from those who benefit from it’. The shadow of the BPT has been identified in terms of political and policy outcomes. For example, the constraining impact of the BPT has been identified in the New Labour constitutional reform agenda (Evans, 2003; Marsh and Hall, 2007), and in the trajectory and parameters of parliamentary reform which has been underpinned by the binary logics of strong government and limited accountability (Flinders, 2002; Kelso, 2009), while political memoir analysis demonstrates the pervasiveness of the BPT in the thinking of political elites (Diamond and Richards, 2012). This is a critical point. Our argument is not that the BPT is uncontested—it certainly is within academic circles (see Bevir and Rhodes, 2003, 2006)—but our argument is that it remains a dominant cultural and institutional reference point among practitioners, in general, and within debates concerning R&R, in particular. The argument, for example, that MPs should not decant from the Palace of Westminster during the Brexit negotiations due to concerns about the impact of such a shift on the legitimacy of decisions or the ‘soft power’ of the UK draws sustenance from the powerful mythology of the BPT (House of Commons, 2017). The suggestion that R&R should be delayed on the basis that the Queen might die without the usual protocols for the lying-in-state of the monarch in Westminster Hall represent similar BPT-derived reservations (Walters, 2017). Taking this forward and drilling-down further into the BPT it is possible to suggest that it matters in relation to R&R for at least three reasons. First, in terms of process the BPT brings with it a well-known predilection for ‘muddling through’ in the sense of a Whiggish belief in organic institutional adaptation and change; the flipside being a cultural aversion to strategic thinking, blueprints or explicit design thinking. This, as later sections will illustrate, is of particular significance when it comes to understanding the current ‘crisis’ at Westminster and the failure of previous phases of restoration and renewal. Secondly, the BPT dovetails with a very specific institutional architecture (i.e. the Westminster Model) with an emphasis on the concentration of power in a single-party executive, executive dominance of the legislature, a two-party system, disproportional electoral system, centralised government, constitutional flexibility, etc. This institutional ‘model’ emphasises ‘strong and responsible government’ over ‘open, inclusive and representative government’ which, in turn, brings us back to the issue of ‘veto players’. The notion of parliamentary sovereignty ensures not only that parliament sits at the apex of the Westminster model but also that those in power will exert tight control over the institution so as not to lose their prized position. The utilisation of the BPT by the executive to reject reform demands is the focus of David Judge’s influential The Parliamentary State (1993) and particularly his concept of the ‘negative executive mentality’. The simple argument being made is that the BPT is likely to cast a highly restrictive shadow over the proposed R&R. Dominant elites are likely to interpret R&R primarily as a threat to their position, the decision-making process is therefore likely to be closed, elitist and tightly managed. A generally hidden political process is therefore likely to play out whereby the more significant or radical options within the policy space are closed-down, deemed unworkable and illegitimate from the very earliest stages. These are exactly the characteristics this research uncovers in relation to the initial stages of R&R between 2012 and 2017. However, before outlining the research on which this claim is made it is necessary to add value to our understanding of the BPT through a focus on why exactly architecture and design matter. The simple argument is that political science has generally failed to comprehend exactly why architecture and design matter. 2. Embedded power and the symbolism of parliaments TheBPTmatters, the previous section suggested, not simply because it embraces a specific set of values but also due to the manner in which it empowers a dominant political elite to veto (or eviscerate) specific reform proposals on the basis of their illegitimacy when judged against largely imagined constitutional criteria. The aim of this section is to highlight the link between this embedded power, this imagined constitution and the symbolism that is physically manifested in the architectural design of parliaments. This, in turn, helps to deepen our understanding of quite why R&R poses such a threat to the existing political elite and therefore why the use of elite blockages is likely to be so extensive. The simple argument is therefore that architecture and design matter because the Palace of Westminster was explicitly designed to embed a very specific type of politics. This is a ‘type’ of politics that some actors want to maintain and others want to redefine. It is neither necessary nor possible to provide an exhaustive account of the link between architecture and politics apart from suggesting that Charles Goodsell’s (1988) argument—made over 30 years ago—concerning the need for political science to pay more attention to the influence of architecture remains broadly true. Political science has generally failed to recognise, study or comprehend how physical space (buildings, light, paintings, statues, seating layouts, toilets, refreshment facilities, etc.) structures political behaviour which explains Gerry Stoker’s (2013) more recent criticism that it remains ‘methodologically and culturally ill-equipped’ to utilise the insights of design-thinking and design-practice. And yet we argue that the building (i.e. the Palace of Westminster) preserves the political traditions practiced within it or, more specifically it ‘perpetuates, manifests and shapes’—to paraphrase Goodsell (1988)—the exclusionary nature of the BPT. Parliaments are, as Vale (2008, p. 3) illustrates, symbolic buildings, which both embody and communicate myths about national power and identity. The grandeur and Gothic magnificence of the Palace, for example, exemplifies the once imperial UK state and the combined strength of its constituent nations. Its imposing limestone structure, topped with spires and turrets, abruptly defines the space within which political business is transacted. The exterior is spectacular and the Gothic style was chosen precisely to ‘articulate a hierarchical image of the political and social order’ in which authority and subordination structured public life (Cannadine, 2000, p. 15) or, as Kertzer (1988) suggests, to imbue parliamentary politics with a degree of ritual mystification that would clearly distinguish insiders from outsiders in a way which defines the contours of British democracy. The pre-democratic origins of the building are reflected in the lack of design-thinking about public access and within the building a lack of windows and lighting, poor acoustics, a labyrinthine layout and limited signage combine to restrict the nature of public engagement in terms of both quality and quantity. The layout of the House of Commons chamber with its adversarial layout, both configures and reinforces the political culture, while artificially maintaining the notion of a simple two-party state. We are not suggesting that the relationship between architectural design and political behaviour is a simple or easily identified institutional characteristic. Even the most cursory analysis of the relatively limited scholarship on this topic would quickly reveal a range of viewpoints. Charles Goodsell, for example, suggests buildings do have direct and deterministic behavioural effects while for John Parkinson (2012) the effects are more subtle and indirect in the sense that parliaments provide a physical site of democratic performance within which key democratic roles such as inclusive narration, claim-making, and decision-making take place against a backdrop of value-laden rituals and traditions. It is also true that buildings come to mean different things to different people at different moments of time and therefore their meaning and effects are not ‘set in stone’ (as emphasised in the work of scholars such as Amos Rapoport). We would, however, suggest that architecture and design—the structuration of space—in Westminster matters due to the manner in which the British political elite imbue it with the values and assumptions of the BPT and therefore act according to those strictures. Spatial characteristics therefore function as a set of symbols around which narratives and meanings have accumulated, through historical and cultural accretion and sedimentation, to the extent that they exert a forceful but largely intangible influence that is reinforced by the fact that they have been firmly and persistently anchored to the ‘building-as-symbol’. Therefore although the Palace of Westminster is a constantly evolving and adapting institution it is also one that is recognised for exhibiting a very distinctive set of cultural characteristics that have in recent years been revealed by scholars who have drawn upon the insights and methods of gendered institutionalism. In this regard, the work of Sarah Childs (2016) provides a direct link between the architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster, on the one hand, and on manner in which actors operating within that building (MPs, peers and staff) interpret or respond to contextual triggers (in this case perpetuating a distinctive brand or form of elite, masculinised and muscular politics). There is actually very little research that applies ‘good design’ or ‘intelligent design’ frameworks to parliaments and legislatures and therefore Childs’ adoption of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s assessment framework for gender sensitivity provides a major reference point from which it is possible to expose and tease-apart the politics of R&R. In fact what the analysis reveals is a set of embedded inequalities in both the physical design of the Palace of Westminster and in the rituals, ceremonies and procedures that are to some extent perpetuated by the physical fabric of the building. The language, the artwork, the modes of interaction that the physical layout creates, the use of space, the hours of parliament, the rules on permitting children in the chamber and committees, etc., were all not only gender insensitive but also not socially exclusive. For those familiar with the structure, processes and culture of parliament the conclusions of the Childs Report would not have been surprising. The Palace of Westminster was designed and intended to create exactly that aura of intimate, informal ‘club government’ (see Moran, 2003) in which tacit knowledge held sway. This is exactly what Winston Churchill sought to achieve in 1943 with his argument that ‘we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us’ (HC Deb, 28 October 1943, col. 403). He was referring to the debate concerning the rebuilding of the Commons chamber after it was bombed by the Luftwaffe and it was his strong opinion that the existing layout of the chamber had served the country well and should therefore be rebuilt as an exact replica of what had gone before. This decision was eventually carried but not without some challenge. The MP for South West Norfolk, Somerset De Chair, suggested ‘That is very true, but do they shape us so very well? … . We may not, therefore, conclude that the type of building we had before will necessarily produce the most sparkling Legislatures in the future’ (col. 463). Viscountess Astor took this further and cautioned that Churchill was looking ‘backwards instead of forwards’ and concluded: ‘I am certain that the Prime Minister is not in touch with the world that is coming, if he thinks that we ought to build a House of Commons exactly like the one we had’ (col. 417). Winston Churchill as a wartime Prime Minister was a dominant veto player. But the relevance of this debate is the manner in which all parties recognised the democratic and political significance of the architecture and design of the Palace of Westminster. Reformers viewed the bombing of the chamber as a ‘window of opportunity’ that might facilitate change but the political elite was able to control the agenda, orchestrate the decision-making process and close-down the debate. What is interesting about the Childs Report is that it similarly interprets the dilapidated state of the Palace of Westminster and the proposed R&R programme as an opportunity for innovation and change. The report therefore calls for the proposed Parliamentary Delivery Authority (PDA)—an arm’s-length organisation with responsibility for delivering the proposed work—to ‘trial new layouts in any decant chamber, and review provision of a new Chamber for the return to the Palace of Westminster’ (p. 37). Seats for all members in the chamber, increased flexibility in relation to layout, improved audio provision, more inclusionary parliamentary spaces, the redesign of committee rooms, sufficient toilet capacity and possibly even a brand new House of Commons chamber are all recommended as part of recipe for what is termed a ‘good parliament’. These recommendations, the architectural/design sensitivity and the use of language in the Childs Report highlight two core issues that provide a link or buckle between the previous section’s focus on the BPT (which Childs is essentially challenging) and the next section’s focus on what the initial decision-making process surrounding R&R reveals about the ‘politics of’ R&R (and therefore the extent to which the Childs Report’s recommendations are likely to find traction). The first issue revolves around pure politics, embedded power and path-dependency. Put very simply, Childs’ vision of a ‘good parliament’ actually revolves around the introduction of a different governing culture, a different model of politics and that this should be embedded through the architectural and design thinking that R&R facilitates. In Churchill’ian terms Childs (and a number of other scholars and commentators) want to reshape our buildings so that they, in turn, shape society differently in the future. From the position of the BPT what Childs promotes as an exemplar of a ‘good’ parliament could be interpreted very much as a ‘bad’ parliament due to the manner in which it seeks to shift the balance between representative and responsible government, facilitate greater public engagement and seeks to dilute or erase the power of specific historical symbols and conventions. This brings us to a second issue and a focus on scale. As comparative institutional analysis has revealed, there are different types or gradations of reform from relatively minor micropolitical changes or concessions through to major macropolitical ‘mega-constitutional’ transformations. As the opening section’s focus on the BPT underlined, the British constitution, in general, and parliamentary reform, in particular, has generally operated through minor but relatively constant changes that represent part of the ‘living’ or ‘organic’ constitution. This is often referred to—among both scholars and practitioners—as the ‘cracks and wedges’ thesis of parliamentary reform (see Wright, 2004) and means that change generally occurs through the imposition of relatively minor concessions in relation to rules or procedures which then provides a wedge that can be used to expand and develop the initial concession into a more significant change over time. But what this section has emphasised is that the architecture and design of the building also need to be understood not just in terms of reform pathways but also in relation to how they embed power and specific ways of thinking about politics. With this in mind, Table 1 draws upon the existing research base to offer a graded framework for the analysis of R&R. It offers a spectrum from radical macropolitical reforms through to more minor micropolitical changes. The value of this framework is that it offers an organising perspective through which to understand developments, positioning and game-playing in relation to R&R. It is also sensitive to historical patterns of change in the sense that the ‘cracks and wedges’ thesis basically suggests that change generally occurs through the expansion and development of what were originally fairly minor concessions by the executive. Veto players (returning to the Tsebelis’ian framework) are likely to focus on restricting the parameters of the policy space, and will utilise their formal and informal resources within the existing institutional framework to neutralise what they define as threats. The core argument of this section has been that it is the design and architecture of the Palace of Westminster—the building and the physical space—although rarely acknowledged, provides the foundations (theoretically and physically) for a quasi-elitist, relatively thin and definitely masculine form of politics. Major change is only therefore likely to occur in the wake of major regime challenges that undermine the position and resources of the existing political elite to prevent change. The next section uses Table 1 as a tool through which to tease apart the unfolding politics of R&R. Table 1 Gradations of parliamentary restoration and renewal Level  Definition  Examples  Macro-parliamentary [Major]  Underpinning elements of the physical fabric and design of parliament, which provide the foundation of the system while also generally ascribing a pattern or model of democracy.  Creation of a new parliamentary building. Creation of new House of Commons chamber. Shift away from adversarial seating layout. Redesign of spaces to fully incorporate public stakeholders in parliamentary activities. Radical adoption of ICT to link the physical footprint to the digital footprint.  Meso-parliamentary [Modest]  Secondary elements of the physical design of parliament that are shaped by or stem from the primary meta-constitutional dynamic.  Changes to committee rooms. Electronic voting in Parliament. New public spaces. Moves towards a child-friendly environment.  Micro-parliamentary [Minor]  Third-order elements that amend or supplement existing physical arrangements of parliament, without impacting on the underpinning logic of the political system.  New visitor centre, increased refreshment areas, more female or gender-sensitive toilets. Improved accessibility. Increased signage. Gender inclusive artwork.  Level  Definition  Examples  Macro-parliamentary [Major]  Underpinning elements of the physical fabric and design of parliament, which provide the foundation of the system while also generally ascribing a pattern or model of democracy.  Creation of a new parliamentary building. Creation of new House of Commons chamber. Shift away from adversarial seating layout. Redesign of spaces to fully incorporate public stakeholders in parliamentary activities. Radical adoption of ICT to link the physical footprint to the digital footprint.  Meso-parliamentary [Modest]  Secondary elements of the physical design of parliament that are shaped by or stem from the primary meta-constitutional dynamic.  Changes to committee rooms. Electronic voting in Parliament. New public spaces. Moves towards a child-friendly environment.  Micro-parliamentary [Minor]  Third-order elements that amend or supplement existing physical arrangements of parliament, without impacting on the underpinning logic of the political system.  New visitor centre, increased refreshment areas, more female or gender-sensitive toilets. Improved accessibility. Increased signage. Gender inclusive artwork.  3. Decision-making in the R&R process The aim of this section is to present the findings of research that has tracked and analysed the evolution of the proposed R&R programme since the 2012 Pre-Feasibility Report. It offers three main findings. The first identifies the existence of a quite fundamental political debate or polarisation concerning the aims and objectives of R&R. The ‘heritage approach’ adopts a broadly conservative lens and focuses on restoring and renewing the physical fabric of what already exists; the ‘democracy approach’ adopts a broader lens that interprets R&R as an opportunity to restore and renew the performance and perception of democratic politics more broadly. The second finding is that, in line with the arguments of Part I (above) the existing political elite is seeking to restrict and minimise the potential political impact of R&R through the adoption of a heritage-orientated emphasis and the utilisation of critical veto points and agenda-setting powers within the decision-making process. Therefore, the final main finding is that although the scope of the proposed R&R programme is far from definite, this early analysis suggests that macropolitical reforms that seek to dramatically ‘renew and restore’ the nature of British parliamentary democracy are unlikely to occur. More specifically (and thirdly) this analysis of the initial ‘exploratory phase’ (2012–2017) facilitates the chronological identification of what might be termed eight ‘narrowing points’, ‘elite veto points’ or ‘elite blockages’: #1 The January 2012 decision by the House of Commons Commission that no decision would be made until R&R until the 2015–2020 Parliament. #2 The initial 2012 decision to rule out the ‘new build’ option. #3 The October 2014 decision by the House of Commons Commission that the Independent Options Appraisal (IOA) would not be published until after the 2015 general election. #4 The limited ‘Outcome Levels’ that were contained in the IOA and were framed by the Pre-Feasibility Report. #5 The marginalisation of the public and democratic campaign groups by the Joint Committee. #6 The recommendation by the Joint Committee (JC) that decant chambers should replicate those of the Palace of Westminster. #7 The decisions of the Treasury and Public Accounts Committees in the House of Commons to launch inquiries into R&R in January 2017. #8 Delays by the government in timetabling the debate and vote on the recommendation of the JC in both House.The rest of this section provides the empirical basis and detailed analysis on which these arguments are based and begins with an account of the development of R&R in terms of framing, decision-stages and ‘players’. On the January and February 2012 agendas of the Houses of Commons Commission (House of Commons, 2012a) and the House of Lords House Committee (House of Lords, 2012a) respectively was the issue of the ‘Modernisation of the Palace of Westminster’. This was not a new issue, and the increased maintenance costs of the Palace had long been a perennial feature of the Palace administration. By 2012, however, the scale of the problem in terms of the decaying condition of the building was critical. The first elite blockage (#1) was recorded at this point, however, as its January 2012 the House of Commons Commission agreed a timescale for what was then termed the ‘Modernisation of the Palace of Westminster’: the agreed timescale delayed any decision on the future of the Palace until the 2015–2020 Parliament. Instead, a Study Group was appointed following those 2012 meetings, and commissioned to produce a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) including a full range of possibilities, ‘from either a new build Parliament or completely modernised Palace at one end of the spectrum, to a programme of managed replacement and condition-based maintenance at the other’ (Pre-Feasibility Study, 2012, p. 3). The report of the PFS Group adopted HM Treasury’s requirements for all public business cases, as set out in the Green Book, to focus on five dimensions: strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management. But the democratic case was not mentioned explicitly at all. Only the section focused on the ‘strategic case for change’ makes reference to this dimension of usage in terms of parliament as a ‘working institution’, noting that the building: [H]has to provide decent standards of accommodation for all those who work within it, or visit as citizens, as school children on educational trips or as witnesses to Parliamentary business, and the building has to support the modern ways in which Parliaments work with informal as well as formal meetings, digital information and mobile devices’ (Pre-Feasibility Study, 2012, p. 28).The report largely focused on listing the many ways in which the Palace of Westminster was in a state of significant material disrepair and thus in need of extensive building work. Crucially, the strategic case for change was clear that asset management was ‘the overwhelming driver for modernisation’, and that ‘other potential benefits, such as opportunities to improve security, access [and] circulation’ would be ‘by-products’ (Pre-Feasibility Study, 2012, p. 6). Therefore, while the PFS did include a broad range of options in its analysis, including that of a new building, the practical logic was always geared towards remaining on the existing site and focused on refurbishing the existing infrastructure. Indeed, when the House of Commons Commission (House of Commons, 2012b) and the House of Lords House Committee (House of Lords, 2012b) met (separately) in October 2012 to consider the PFS report, they each ruled out the option of constructing a new parliament building, and agreed that no further analysis of this option would be undertaken (#2). Crucially, neither committee outlined the reasons underpinning this decision, and no publicly available records of committee discussions of this point are available. Thus, analysis of the publicly available documentation fails to uncover how this important decision was made. This, coupled with the very limited attention given to the new building option in the PFS report, strongly suggests that the option was included simply so it could be said to have been included, but without compelling anyone seriously to consider it. Within just a few short months, therefore, the R&R programme parameters had been significantly narrowed. Our point here is not normative: we are not advocating the building of a new legislature for the UK. Our point is analytical in the sense that a core aim of the programme is to deliver a parliament that is ‘fit for the twenty-first century’ and therefore a detailed discussion of the design variables that would inform the creation of a new building (informed by recent international experience) would, at the very least, have created a benchmark, reference point or organising perspective against which to consider R&R at Westminster. Put slightly differently, the opening question should arguably have been ‘What do we want and how do we get it?’, as opposed to ‘What do we have and how do we adapt it?’ In addition, as Table 1 demonstrates, the key decisions which framed the R&R parameters were made by MPs and peers on the House of Commons Commission and House of Lords House Committee; that is, those actors who are most immersed in the political symbolism of the Palace, and who are typically identified by critics of the BPT as being at the heart of elitist and secretive decision-making. Indeed, the trajectory of R&R decision-making sketched here simply reinforces arguments about the pervasiveness of the BPT. This refurbishment-focused 2012 report therefore shaped the IOA report, produced by a commission led by Deloitte, and including AECOM and HOK, who were commissioned in December 2013, but were required to operate within the choice parameters dictated by their client, that is, the Houses of Parliament. The IOA report, was completed in September 2014. The House of Commons Commission has not stated when it received the report, but the minutes of its October 2014 state that the Commission agreed not to authorise the publication of the report until ‘June/July 2015’ (i.e. after the May 2015 general election which reflects the manner in which R&R is frequently described by MPs as a ‘toxic issue’). This was a further elite blockage, delaying scrutiny or examination of the findings (i.e. #3). The IOA report provided a highly detailed analysis of how the R&R might proceed in practice in relation to three delivery options, each of which mapped different levels of ‘decanting’ of parliament from the Palace while the work took place, and in relation to three different outcome levels in terms of the extent of the work undertaken. In offering specific information in terms of costs, parliamentary decant options and proposals for renovating existing parts of the Palace to create more space, the IOA report responded directly to the strategic case laid out by the PFS Group. Table 2 provides the summary of the potential Scenarios outlined by the IOA, and the shaded boxes identify the shortlisted Scenarios. Outcome Level A provides for a basic level of R&R, while the Outcome Level C provides for the repurposing of some parliamentary areas (Deloitte, 2015, p. 6). Table 2 Key decision-stages in the R&R programme Decision-stage  Task/outcome  Actors  Study commissioned on Palace modernisation options, January 2012  Agreement on need for PFS Group to review relevant documentation and examine full range of modernisation possibilities from new build/full modernisation, to managed replacement and maintenance.  House of Commons Commission: Mr Speaker (chair), Leader of the House, 4 other MPs.  House of Lords House Committee: Lord Speaker (chair), assorted peers, Clerk of the Parliaments, assorted clerks, parliamentary management staff.  PFS Group established, January 2012  Analysis of Palace condition, delineation of strategic case for change, mapping of decant strategy and issues.  Dr Richard Ware (Director): previously director of UK Parliament ICT and Resources. Parliamentary Director of Estates. Mary Ollard Lords Representative. Industry input (Tim Ainger, partner of Gardiner and Theobald LLP, non-executive member of Parliamentary Estates Board). 2 Members from each House of Parliament respectively.  Consideration of PFS Report, October 2012  Rejection of option for a new parliament building.  House of Commons Commission (see above).  Commissioning of fuller R&R options analysis to include detailed costings and decant strategies.  House of Lords House Committee (see above).  IOA published, July 2015  Delivery of full Scenarios for R&R, decant options, costings.  Deloitte Real Estate, AECOM, HOK.  JC on the Palace of Westminster established, July 2015  Consideration of IOA report, recommendation of Scenario decision to Houses of Parliament.  Committee established by motions in both Houses.  Recruitment of Architectural, Design and Project Management consortia, April 2016  Consideration of ‘suitable’ candidates in terms of professional skills and experience.  Four companies short-listed but final decision awaiting debate and vote to proceed in both Houses.  Publication of JC Report, September 2016  To review the IOA report and make a recommendation to both Houses concerning the most appropriate reform pathway.  Leader of the House of Commons (co-chair).  Leader of the House of Lords (co-chair).  5 MPs, 5 peers.  Decision-stage  Task/outcome  Actors  Study commissioned on Palace modernisation options, January 2012  Agreement on need for PFS Group to review relevant documentation and examine full range of modernisation possibilities from new build/full modernisation, to managed replacement and maintenance.  House of Commons Commission: Mr Speaker (chair), Leader of the House, 4 other MPs.  House of Lords House Committee: Lord Speaker (chair), assorted peers, Clerk of the Parliaments, assorted clerks, parliamentary management staff.  PFS Group established, January 2012  Analysis of Palace condition, delineation of strategic case for change, mapping of decant strategy and issues.  Dr Richard Ware (Director): previously director of UK Parliament ICT and Resources. Parliamentary Director of Estates. Mary Ollard Lords Representative. Industry input (Tim Ainger, partner of Gardiner and Theobald LLP, non-executive member of Parliamentary Estates Board). 2 Members from each House of Parliament respectively.  Consideration of PFS Report, October 2012  Rejection of option for a new parliament building.  House of Commons Commission (see above).  Commissioning of fuller R&R options analysis to include detailed costings and decant strategies.  House of Lords House Committee (see above).  IOA published, July 2015  Delivery of full Scenarios for R&R, decant options, costings.  Deloitte Real Estate, AECOM, HOK.  JC on the Palace of Westminster established, July 2015  Consideration of IOA report, recommendation of Scenario decision to Houses of Parliament.  Committee established by motions in both Houses.  Recruitment of Architectural, Design and Project Management consortia, April 2016  Consideration of ‘suitable’ candidates in terms of professional skills and experience.  Four companies short-listed but final decision awaiting debate and vote to proceed in both Houses.  Publication of JC Report, September 2016  To review the IOA report and make a recommendation to both Houses concerning the most appropriate reform pathway.  Leader of the House of Commons (co-chair).  Leader of the House of Lords (co-chair).  5 MPs, 5 peers.  The decision at this point returned to Parliament, with the appointment of the JC on the Palace of Westminster, in July 2015, to consider the IOA report. The Committee was appointed following motions in both Houses, but it is important to note that the Houses were asked to agree an already decided list of Members from both Houses. No minutes or details on how the Committee membership was chosen have been published; and even the decision on the party balance on the Committee was made by ‘the usual channels’, rather than in a transparent manner (HL Deb, 20 July 2015, col. 902). In November 2015, the JC launched a public consultation on two key issues: the scope of the refurbishment work to be undertaken (i.e. ‘Outcomes’), and how the work should be delivered (i.e. ‘Delivery Options’). That consultation is considered below, but for now we can complete our sketch of the R&R decision-process thus far with the formal recommendations of the Joint Committee, published in September 2016 and which advocated a full decant (HC659, 2016). The process since the publication of this report has, however, reflected the politics of R&R that this article seeks to bring to the fore. On 10 March 2017, the Public Accounts Committee (HC1005, 2017) examined R&R and recommended swift action: ‘Our conclusion is clear: the option favoured by the Joint Committee is most likely to be the most economical, effective and efficient choice’; only for the Treasury Committee to publish a report seven days later (HC1097, 2017) calling for a fundamental review of the whole project that would even revisit the initial brief underpinning the Deloitte-led IOA. ‘Until this work has been carried out it’ the Treasury Committee concluded ‘it is our view that it would be imprudent for the House to commit to a specific option or timetable’ (para. 14). The bottom line is that over six-months after the JC made its recommendation to parliament the future of the R&R programme appears, if anything, more uncertain despite the growing evidence of an escalating risk of a catastrophic failure in the physical infrastructure of the building. Moreover, although the politics of R&R is generally playing out behind the scenes at Westminster it is attracting increased media attention and condemnation. An editorial in The Times (3 April 2017), for example, noted: As the Houses of Parliament crumble and leak around them, ministers are postponing an urgent but straightforward decision on how to repair them. Influential backbenchers are meanwhile lobbying for an unnecessarily complex and expensive plan that would serve no one’s interests but their own.A number of points emerge from this brief account of the initial 2012–2017 decision-making process. First, while the scope of the project may have been theoretically expansive at the Pre-Feasibility Report stage, when the option of a new parliament building was at least included in the remit, that scope subsequently narrowed considerably with the immediate exclusion of the ‘new build’ option. The thrust of R&R was from that point arguably engineered more towards a heritage-focused project rather than any sort of democracy-focused initiative (discussed further below). As a result (and secondly), when viewed through reform gradations of Table 1 the proposed restoration and renewal works are minimal and generally retain a strong preference for continuity over change (i.e. a key aspect of the BPT). The difference between Outcome Levels A, B and C is very small (i.e. #4) and when viewed against the graded reform profiles of Table 1 the plans arguably focus on a limited number of micropolitical enhancements while essentially ‘renewing and restoring’ the existing building. Veto players on the House of Commons Commission and House of Lords House Committee were therefore able to effective define the parameters of R&R from the outset and subsequent reports and inquiries have worked very much within that set pathway. Moreover, the policy space has been tightly controlled through the patronage of party managers who agreed the party balance of the JC (which was co-chaired by government ministers) but also subsequently through the government’s control of when the joint committee’s vote will be debated and voted upon. And yet to describe a simple process of tight executive management would be to overlook the existence of more subtle and multi-levelled games. There is a ‘politics within politics’ dimension of R&R that deserves comment. In a risk-averse and generally conservative institution where change has historically occurred at a glacial pace and in which the majority of the existing political elite will view any reform agenda as a potential threat to their position rather than an opportunity there is clearly a need to step softly when considering or framing projects, especially when their implications are potentially so far-reaching as R&R. Moreover with the support of both houses necessary for R&R to proceed, there was clearly political advantage to be gained by framing R&R as a purely technical heritage-based project in which the democratic reform implications were over-looked. To do otherwise would have been to almost guarantee a lack of support within parliament and the rejection of any plans. What is therefore noticeable about the official documentation surrounding the R&R programme is that it is almost depoliticised in terms of tone and content. Making R&R too overtly ‘political’ would only ‘spook the horses’. This technocratic, linear project-management approach can be read three ways. The first would see this as wholly appropriate given the fact that R&R is inevitably going to be a complex ‘mega-project’ and the IOA was quite correctly operating within the formal project parameters set down out of the Pre-feasibility Study (PFS). A second and more politicised reading might interpret this highly technical framing of R&R as an attempt by the existing political elite to close-down and supress the demands of those who have more extensive democratic ambitions for R&R (i.e. they want it to ‘unlock’ the current political equilibrium). But there is also a third interpretation that would explain depoliticisation at this stage as the rational strategy of an ardent reform advocate or constitutional entrepreneur. In effect, this strategy would play-down the reform implications of R&R at this stage to allow a degree of policy-momentum and public debate to develop at which point it may be harder for the government to control the agenda and easier for the policy space to be expanded. Given that the current decision-making and framing process surrounding R&R has been dominated by no more than a dozen people with close connections to the two main parties that have traditionally been wedded to the Westminster model suggests that this third interpretation might be slightly optimistic. Indeed, what the detailed analysis of R&R reveals is incredibly tight control over the review and discussion surrounding R&R. This is something the Speaker of the House of Commons recognised in October 2016 when he called for a ‘national conversation’ about the opportunities R&R offered for thinking differently about politics (see Bercow, 2017). The Pre-Feasibility Report has also been aware of the potential public backlash from spending billions of pounds on the Palace of Westminster in a period dominated by anti-political sentiment and economic austerity. Parliament would have to be ‘proactive in communication’ to focus on long-term benefits of refurbishment the report argued (2012, p. 66) but this was not an approach adopted by the JC during its inquiry. A ‘call for evidence’ was published and theoretically facilitated public engagement but the terms of the inquiry and the specific questions set out in the call were incredibly technocratic and narrow. Of the 12 consultation questions set out by the Joint Committee, only 4 were targeted at the public, with the remainder focused on the collecting views of MPs and parliamentary staff, and this framing of the consultation arguably illustrates the degree to which it is shaped around serving the needs of parliamentary actors. In addition, the consultation approach chosen by the JC involves the standard select committee model (i.e. a call for evidence posted on the website and an invitation to submit written responses) with no account given to recent Liaison Committee advice regarding innovative outreach (HC470, 2015). In addition, the JC held only two oral evidence sessions as part of its inquiry work, which was remarkable given the significance of the topic under consideration. And yet as Peter Blundell Jones and Doina Petrescu’s Architecture and Participation (2005) illustrates, opening up questions regarding architectural restoration or redesign to processes of public engagement risks, to some extent, losing control over a process. Advocates of far-reaching change might size the agenda or unexpected options suddenly become the focus of populist pressures. Such risks are anathema to the BPT and instead the work of the JC suggests the conscious marginalisation of the public at that stage in the process (i.e. #5). This is further confirmed by the analysis of the oral evidence sessions. Key politicians were invited to offer their opinions on R&R, as were representatives of the media, heritage specialists, engineers and project managers but civic groups and campaign organisations were not. Once again this could be interpreted as a rational approach for even the most reform-minded committee or politician due to the need to secure the approval of both houses for R&R to progress to the next level. It could, however, be seen as simply the approach of a political elite that has no interest in reforming an institution that serves it so well and in this regard. Moreover, in terms of identifying elite blockages and the narrowing or closing-off of options what is interesting about the JC’s final report is that although it does recommend the full decant option (i.e. Option 3, Table 3) it does seek to veto the opportunity for testing and assessing institutional innovations (i.e. #6). In complete opposition to the recommendations of the Childs Report and other commentators, the JC suggests under their ‘recommended criteria for temporary accommodation’ that, ‘The general floor space and layout of the two Chambers should be replicated as far as possible in temporary accommodation (p. 65)’ and ‘The division lobbies should, as far as possible, be replicated’ (p. 66). Table 3 R&R of the Palace of Westminster, options and estimates   Option 1 (rolling decant)  Option 2 (partial decant)  Option 3 (full decant)  Outcome Level A  E1A  2A  3A  £5.67bn  £3.94bn  25–40 years  9–14 years  32 years most likely  11 years most likely  Outcome Level B  1B  2B  3B  £4.42bn  £3.52bn  9–14 years  5–8 years  11 most likely  6 most likely  Outcome Level C  1C  2C  3C  £3.87bn  5–8 years  6 most likely    Option 1 (rolling decant)  Option 2 (partial decant)  Option 3 (full decant)  Outcome Level A  E1A  2A  3A  £5.67bn  £3.94bn  25–40 years  9–14 years  32 years most likely  11 years most likely  Outcome Level B  1B  2B  3B  £4.42bn  £3.52bn  9–14 years  5–8 years  11 most likely  6 most likely  Outcome Level C  1C  2C  3C  £3.87bn  5–8 years  6 most likely  Source: Deloitte (2015, pp. 5, 10–15). This in turn is indicative of a preference for the status quo and an awareness that the simple process of decanting and establishing a temporary chamber that will sit for at least six years will inevitably affect the culture and expectations of members: it will affect the BPT. The temporary chamber is likely to be better equipped than the chamber of the Lords or Commons in terms of IT, wi-fi, acoustics, heating and may even offer each and every MP their own seat (although the limited space in the proposed decant option makes this unlikely). Well before the JC had published Oonagh Gay had already highlighted the possible reform-impact of decant by suggesting that ‘if MPs become used to more spacious and well-equipped facilities, maybe with electronic voting, they might be reluctant to return to a mere restoration with traditional lobbies. Similarly the public may well want more transparent ways of seeing legislators at work than restricted seating in galleries well above the chambers’. To some extent the JC has attempted to close-down the policy space and options surrounding the decant. Whether this strategy will actually work is currently unclear and depends to a large extent on how the government responds to the divergent recommendations contained in the Treasury Select Committee and Public Accounts Committee reports of March 2017 (#7) and if a debate and vote is held on the JC’s recommendation. TheJC’s response stated that it was ‘essential that the R&R Programme now proceeds to its next stages [the parliamentary debate and vote] without delay’ but—as already mentioned—the Government has consistently declined to schedule this debate, and as the executive retains control of parliamentary time, this has prevented the debate from taking place, and thus blocked the R&R programme from proceeding (#8). This point dovetails with the Treasury’s Committee’s broader criticism that ‘the process by which and by whom some decisions have been taken on restoration and renewal to date are opaque’ (HC1097, 2017, para. 6). The research presented in this article suggests that this criticism is valid and encourages us to consider why this finding actually matters vis-à-vis a number of broader debates about the future of democratic governance and its institutions. 5. How institutions (do not) work Although the empirical focus of this article has been on the proposed R&R of the Palace of Westminster, its main focus has actually been upon the broader theme of institutional adaptation. The insight that Tsebelis offers in this context is a focus on veto players and embedded political elites who are likely to have few incentives to support reforms that are intended to weaken their position. The added value of the approach offered in this article has centred around it focus on the role of architecture and design in terms of physically embedding certain ‘rules of the game’ that will inevitably favour some groups, parties or individuals above others. This is frequently reflected in the assumed link between ‘new parliaments’ and ‘new politics’ that is illustrated in the global architectural and design surveys that include XML’s Parliament project (2016) and Christian Kuhn’s PLENUM: Places of Power (2014). What these surveys rarely explore, however, is the politics of parliamentary restoration, renewal or even abolition in terms of the resources and powers that different actors utilise to facilitate or block change. The main conclusion of this article is that the analysis of the initial ‘Scoping & Planning’ between 2012 and 2017 suggests that a process of aversive constitutionalism is ensnaring or suffocating the proposed R&R. The democratic potential of R&R is being denied, rejected and to some extent deemed illegitimate with the BPT acting as a legitimating constitutional touchstone. Aspirational constitutionalism, in contrast and to adopt the insights provided by Scheppele (2003), refers to a process of constitution or polity building in which decision-makers understand what they are attempting to achieve and why. It is forward looking, inclusive and confident. It might then be argued that reports such as Childs’ The Good Parliament report or the Design Commission’s Designing Democracy report of 2015 reveal an aspirational approach to R&R; the reports of the parliamentary committees a more aversive approach. It could be argued that the cultural dynamics of the British constitution has always been imbued with aversive constitutionalism and therefore this approach should not be surprising. And yet what this analysis has attempted to bring to the fore is the manner in which the physical space of the Palace of Westminster is infused with this constitutional morality. This creates an institutional trap and complex bargaining games that are likely to produce gridlock and inaction. The question is then really whether the institutions of democratic governance can afford to reject the increasing public demands for greater evidence of innovation and engagement. Do established parliaments and legislatures possess the adaptive capacity to play a role in closing the gap that seems to have emerged between the governors and the governed? The literature on post-democracy and the life and death of politics—not to mention the ‘suicide’, ‘end’ or ‘crisis’ of democracy—reminds us that the proposed R&R is taking place within a far larger sociopolitical context. It is for this reason that the remainder of this concluding section briefly examines the implications of this article vis-à-vis a number of micro-, meso- and macro-political debates. In terms of the micropolitics of R&R and the future of the Palace of Westminster remains opaque. What is clear from the analysis offered above is that R&R currently lacks any clear ‘vision’ and that no constitutional entrepreneur with such a vision and the capacity to remove internal blockages has emerged. Indeed, the reverse is true in the sense that R&R is largely viewed by MPs and peers as a toxic issue to be avoided at all costs. As a result very basic questions exist as to the ownership of the programme, the division of responsibilities between actors and core strategic ambitions. This latter point is critical. The current core aims of R&R include a commitment to (i) protect the physical heritage of a Grade 1 listed World Heritage Site, while also (ii) delivering a parliament that is fit for the 21st century. And yet how exactly a ‘parliament fit for the twenty-first century’ can be retrofitted into an ancient royal palace subject to extensive heritage preservation orders remains unclear. This explains the concern of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) member of the Joint Committee, Neil Gray MP, about whether R&R was ‘artificially crowbarring a parliament into an old palace at a premium?’ This raises ongoing questions about the initial decision to reject the ‘new build’ option so early in the policy process but this in itself may have reflected the existence of complex bargaining and game playing within the internal processes to achieve at least some movement. Potential elite blockages can therefore be removed but only through the granting of concessions that are likely to bring the point of equilibrium back towards the status quo (as arguably occurred in relation to the internal dynamics of the JC). And yet the broader and long-term risks of this tendency was highlighted by the JC when it noted, It would be an error for Parliament to miss this rare opportunity to deliver a more open, efficient, inclusive and outward-facing parliamentary building… . Future generations will not thank us if we fail to seize [this] opportunity and instead preserve for posterity all the obstacles to public access and to the effective working of Parliament which the building currently embodies (para. 247).The phrase ‘which the building currently embodies’ reintroduces the issues of architecture and design. Indeed a provocative argument could be made that the real problem for those who want R&R to adopt a more innovative, expansive and democracy-orientated approach that acknowledges the extent of anti-political sentiment is that the ‘crisis’ and ‘catastrophic failures’ that several reports have now highlighted remain existential threats. A major fire, flood, sewerage leak, stonework collapse or outbreak of asbestos poisoning would suddenly facilitate both the public debate and the wide review of options that is currently being restricted by the existing institutional structure. This can be labelled the ‘Fawkes thesis’ but a major institutional crisis would at least remove or downgrade heritage considerations and shift the focus away from the current starting point (i.e. What do we have and how do we adapt it?) towards a more open (aspirational) discussion of ‘What do we want and how do we get it?’ And yet this question in itself forces us to step back and adopt a broader analytical and comparative perspective. R&R represents a major opportunity for the political and social sciences to play a role in democratic design, testing new innovations and generally providing an evidence base on which decisions could be based. The dilemma, however, arises from the fact (as outlined above) that political science is not well-placed to respond to this demand-side signal. The existing research base on, for example, the impact of seating arrangements on political behaviour or the impact of electronic voting on decision-making is surprisingly thin. The paradox here is that although a growing evidence base exists in relation to ‘intelligent design’ within architectural and design studies that reveals the impact of spatial factors such as windows, light and acoustics on, for example, student attainment levels or patient recovery times the implications or relevance of these findings for parliaments and legislatures remains unexamined. This flows into a broader comparative point in the sense that the UK is clearly not unique in the sense of having to deal with major structural challenges or questions about the suitability of its legislative buildings. The major refurbishment of the Canadian parliament in Ottawa—the ‘rehabilitation of Parliament Hill’—is probably the most similar ongoing project to R&R currently underway in the world but has not been the topic of detailed scholarly or lesson-learning analysis. The renovation of the Reichstag in Berlin also has major relevance due to its explicit ambitions to blend history with a radical architectural departures—notably in relation to the use of light, public space and the addition of a major glass cupola—that were designed to symbolise a new phase in German political history; and in terms of ‘new-builds’ the architecture and design of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly of Wales was explicitly intended to prevent the replication of majoritarian politics in Edinburgh and Cardiff. The new Georgian parliament in Kutaisi—a massive glass dome—is physically and geographically intended to represent a clear break with the country’s political past and has not been located close to the government buildings on Tbilisi; whereas in India the constitutionally ascribed link between population and representation has created institutional pressures for expansion that can only be accommodated through the creation of a new parliamentary complex. The links with the current situation in Westminster are obvious but three issues flow out of this international landscape. The first is that the internal planning documents regarding R&R have generally been quite parochial in the sense that similar projects around the world have hardly been mentioned, let alone carefully examined to identify key insights, good practice, etc. The second issue revolves around the lack of comparative political analysis on the design or architecture of parliaments around the world, let alone on the political dynamics underlying critical design and architectural decisions. This, in turn, leads back to a more disciplinary set of questions concerning impact and engagement and whether a more explicit and ambitious design-oriented model of political science might offer a critical ‘road to relevance’ that has so far been largely overlooked. But at the broadest level the significance of the proposed R&R of the Palace of Westminster arguably rests upon its relationship to broader narratives and concerns regarding ‘the life and death of democracy’ (Keane, 2010) which have already highlighted the emergence of post-parliamentary, post-representative, post-democratic forms of politics. Whether parliament can demonstrate its continued relevance and adaptive qualities in this broader context and offer a more aspirational approach by seeing R&R as an opportunity rather than a threat remains to be seen. Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. References Bercow J. ( 2017) ‘ Designing for Democracy’ Parliamentary Affairs , DOI: 10.1093/pa/gsw037. Bevir M., Rhodes R. A. W. ( 2003) Interpreting British Governance , London, Routledge. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Bevir M., Rhodes R. A. W. ( 2006) Governance Stories , London, Routledge. Cannadine D. 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