For Conservatives of a certain age, Smith Square will always be associated with the great days of Margaret Thatcher and Conservative government. Who will ever forget the jubilant scenes as Maggie was re-elected, and acknowledged the cheering crowds through the windows?
So these Conservatives (and I include myself) feel a particularly bitter pang to see that this very building is now the headquarters of the Occupying Power in the capital city of our once-independent country. It is jointly used by the UK representation of both the EU Commission and the parliament.
That said, it has to be admitted that the EU institutions, with access to unlimited amounts of tax-payers’ money, have done a remarkable job on refitting the interior, and the contrast with the rather run-down way it was under a cash-strapped Conservative Party is striking.
I visited the old place on Tuesday to check out the facilities, which I as an MEP can use (subject to certain conditions). I was shown round by the affable and helpful Michael Shackleton. They have a range of meeting rooms, and indeed several political groups, including our own ECR, and EFD/UKIP, have dedicated offices on the fifth floor. I understand that UKIP, who have no London office, make extensive use of these facilities. Other MEPs have used them for meetings, book launches and so on.
There is also a penthouse suite suitable for hospitality events on the top floor, and attached to it a pleasing and spacious out-door deck area, which would be an excellent venue for an event on a warm summer’s day. It has a view over the Church of Saint John in Smith Square, and the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben, and the London Eye. See the photo above. And weep.