Plumbing: Inside the latest Westminster scandal - urinegate
Thursday 29 November 2012
We've had Watergate, Hackgate and now #urinegate. However, considering the context of the latest scandal to blight parliament – a leaky urinal above MP Ben Bradshaw's office – Watergate as a title would probably still suffice.
After two days of sitting in a pee-drenched study the former Culture Secretary turned to Twitter to share the dank details of his predicament; the result of "a men's urinal with Victorian copper piping with holes in it" on the floor above. As the estate services hurried to find the source of the dripping, a temporary solution was found in the form of a bucket, while Bradshaw's two female assistants took to wearing strong (but "very nice") perfume to cover up the unpleasant smell.
It may not be the biggest leak a government has ever experienced, but could the fresh attention being given to the decaying building's facilities mark a watershed moment for Westminster? A survey taken in June found that loo problems topped the list of MP's workplace woes, with a third complaining the lavatories were too dirty. Such is the extent of dereliction in the Houses of Parliament that it could cost up to £3bn to refurbish it, and some have simply suggested selling it off altogether.
Meanwhile, some Whitehall cleaners continue to be paid below the living wage in many government departments. Urinegate certainly plays nicely into the hand of Unite's current "Justice For Cleaners" campaign.
It comes as no surprise, then, that yesterday, Bradshaw published an open letter in the Exeter Express and Echo stating that "investing in flood defences is a must". Perhaps it was the unsavoury situation in his office, rather than the disastrous weather which hit the west of England last week, that inspired this plea.
But despite the people of Britain having a fine propensity to make light of loos, in all their oddly shaped ceramic forms, workplace hygiene is a serious concern. It is a legal requirement for employers to keep washroom facilities in a clean and orderly condition and one can only assume that this obligation includes keeping one's office free of ministerial piddle. Time for an inquiry, wouldn't you say?
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