South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay: Coronation, Pugin and elections

Craig Mackinlay

It is difficult to put into words the full glory of the Coronation of King Charles III, the pomp and majesty of a thankfully rare event laid out in full thanks to the quality of modern cameras and the high definition of our televisions.

How very different from the story related by my late mother whereby her grandmother had purchased a small, flickering black and white set for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. Literally billions of people around the world would have watched this weekend’s events with a sense of enchantment that our geographically small nation has significant reach, influence and global appeal. There were very few places available to Parliamentarians to attend the Coronation and I was not fortunate enough to win a golden ticket in the MPs ballot but by way of compensation, the King and Queen attended Westminster Hall on Tuesday 2nd May to meet Members of both Houses of Parliament. I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with His Majesty and to shake his hand. A true privilege.

Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Team are visiting many parts of the country as plans advance to commence the significant restoration of the Palace of Westminster. This will be the biggest restoration project in Europe requiring many old skills that are now rare and a complex supply chain of traditional materials. It’s a plan that’s been in process for years but with no firm conclusions as to the form it will take.

The big stumbling block is the prospect of Parliament being shifted out of the estate for many years and for obvious reasons this is not universally supported by MPs and Lords. The other matter is the cost which will run into many billions of pounds. There is no doubt that restoration is needed of this most iconic of the UK’s landmarks but how that form should take will be widely discussed.

Augustus Pugin, the designer of the Palace of Westminster in its high gothic style, was one of our local residents and is buried in a family crypt within the recently renovated Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate. The team came to Ramsgate to look at the Shrine and Pugin’s home ‘The Grange’ built in similar gothic style. It is worth looking up the history of Pugin and one wonders how he managed to fit in so much into a relatively short life. He died at age 40.

Local elections have swept through much of the country. Conservatives fared badly. I won’t even try to put a brave spin on it as local elections, even though very poor turnouts, usually around the 30% mark, way less than half the engagement of a general election obviously give an indication of the way the electorate is feeling. Labour have taken Thanet and Dover District Councils. Not entirely unexpected and most of the boroughs in the county have moved to no overall control. Labour won big in Medway.

We are running a ‘sensible’ national government, battered as we have been by external events of Covid and the Ukraine war, but realistically have we offered any excitement of late to encourage Conservative voters to come out to vote in local elections? Obviously not despite the minority Conservative administration in Thanet quietly doing great things to turn the authority around.

There are clearly lots of Conservative voters across Kent, the General Election of a three and a half years ago proves that. High taxes, no obvious halting of the boats crossing the channel, house building and planning concerns mixed with a general sense of malaise worked against us. We have to change the ground quickly else the country could sleepwalk into a new socialist era of even more ‘woke’, class envy and doubtless higher taxes.

Doubtless lots of discussions around the corridors and rooms of Westminster over the coming weeks. It’s never dull!