The irony of the Guy Fawkes tra­di­tion: Grant

North Shore Times - - OUT & ABOUT - DAMIEN GRANT

OPINION: Perched on a mighty plinth on Par­lia­ment’s grounds is Richard Seddon. I’m not a fan of King Dick. He in­tro­duced liquor li­cens­ing, held ques­tion­able racial views, and was re­spon­si­ble for the Labour Day hol­i­day, which most of my staff spent at Ar­maged­don. On full pay. Still, he was res­o­lutely opposed to women’s suf­frage so he wasn’t with­out merit.

How­ever, stand­ing be­side this colos­sus from the past it’s pos­si­ble to ad­mire the mis­shapen con­fu­sion that is our par­lia­ment house. To the cen­tre and right sits a Vic­to­rian de­sign, com­plete with the Ro­man col­umns and stone arch win­dows pop­u­lar dur­ing that pe­riod.

Ex­cept, it’s not fin­ished. The de­sign was the process of a com­pe­ti­tion and the win­ning en­try had two wings. Only one was built.

Trag­i­cally, re­sources needed to com­plete the build­ing were squan­dered send­ing nearly 17,000 young men to per­ish in Europe in the grand folly of the Great War.

Half a cen­tury later, the Govern­ment, buoyed with bor­rowed cash, re­solved to com­plete the

‘‘Sadly, his mo­tives were not pure.’’

pro­ject. The ob­vi­ous choice would have been to re­vert to the 1911 blue­print but the po­lit­i­cal class wanted to make a state­ment. That’s how we got the Bee­hive – a 10-story aneurysm that ruins the sym­me­try of the ini­tial de­sign.

It’s a mess. The ar­chi­tec­tural equiv­a­lent of putting mus­tard on pavlova. A phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of the in­com­pe­tence of govern­ment and why, since the dawn of west­ern con­scious­ness, wise men have wished to be free of the tyranny of kings.

In this glo­ri­ous tra­di­tion is a cer­tain Mr Guido Fawkes, who wished to de­stroy West­min­ster and ev­ery­one in it. Sadly, his mo­tives were not pure; driven by a loathing of a Protes­tant monarch rather than any lib­er­tar­ian im­pulses.

Guy Fawkes Day was his­tor­i­cally a cel­e­bra­tion of his cap­ture, tor­ture and death but over the past cen­tury this evolved into an ironic re­joic­ing of his ini­tial dark in­ten­tions.

Seddon’s statue pru­dently faces away from the mess politi­cians have made of our Par­lia­ment build­ing and the holy al­liance of an old-school Mul­doon­ist and a co­hort of fresh­faced com­rades that is cur­rently plot­ting within its con­fines.

Alas we have no metaphor­i­cal Fawkes to free us from the dark years ahead, but this week we can

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Damien Grant: Guy Fawkes Day was his­tor­i­cally a cel­e­bra­tion of his cap­ture, tor­ture and death but over the past cen­tury this evolved into an ironic re­joic­ing of his ini­tial dark in­ten­tions.

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