Take the Millennium Dome, on which no vilification is too extreme to pour. Its notoriety has even crossed the Atlantic, with a knocking article in The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago headed "The Blunderdome". As for me, although I could see its flaws, I liked the dome. So did most of the 6 million people who visited it, making this reviled edifice one of the most popular visitor attractions there has ever been in this country.
Next, look at the Tate Modern on the South Bank. Every commentator raves about it – except me. I attended the Royal opening and then went round the place. I thought it drab and boring, and have no wish to go back. As for its catering facilities, the egghead cognoscenti who admired the revamped power station included one restaurant critic who, having attempted the food there, gave up and went off to a nearby greasy spoon.
And now we have the newly opened (by the Queen again) Great Court of the British Museum. Although controversy has been aroused by the face of the stone on the south portico, the general opinion of the Great Court project is that it is marvellous, staggering, elegant and so on. Not only the British press but even The New Yorker have raved about it. Include me out.
I recently went to the British Museum to take a look. The authorities could not have been nicer. They made special arrangements to receive me, and were generous enough to provide two complimentary tickets for the Gladiators exhibition. I loved the exhibition, and congratulate all involved. But then, most of the exhibits in this great museum are terrific.
So why am I moaning? First, I had difficulty actually finding the Great Court. There was a plan of the museum on a wall nearby the Gladiators exhibition, but I found it so impenetrable that I had to make enquiries of an attendant, who abandoned her post of vigilance to escort me to my destination. When I got to the Great Court and took my first look, I sighed with disappointment.
Don't get me wrong: the reclamation of a previously obscure and derelict area is ambitious and admirable. I even liked the controversial south portico. What depressed me was the great stone-clad cone that covers the former British Library Round Reading Room.
The face of the stone is so bland that it looks like the world's biggest styrofoam beaker. And that is how it is always going to look since, being indoors, it will not acquire character by weathering. And what is inside this container for a mammoth helping of coffee? Answer: one of the most heartbreaking sights I have ever seen.
A plague on those who have perpetrated this atrocity on the Round Reading Room
I loved the reading room when it was a proper reference room. It was filled with eccentric people (of whom I from time to time was one), inspired in their researches by the spirits of Shaw, Marx and the others, great and obscure, who used this great storehouse of literature.
Those books have been pillaged away to a new foster-home near St Pancras Station, and now the forlorn shelves – some of them, at any rate – contain books belonging to something called the Paul Hamlyn Library. To make matters worse, some catalogue volumes of the real reading room are placed on shelves, with a warning that the books they list are unavailable.
Marooned in this blighted area, seated at the desks that insultingly remain as though they have a proper purpose, were a pathetic handful of survivors, doing their best to look as though they were carrying out traditional research. A plague on those, in the British Museum and the British Library, who have perpetrated this atrocity on one of the world's most beautiful interiors.
Let me voice two other complaints. The first relates to the new restaurant in the Great Court.
I have nothing at all against the restaurant itself. The food is very good, if a bit pricey, and on a winter's day, it was a little draughty. No: what I criticise is the way it is run. The museum authorities very kindly reserved a table for my companion and myself. But we were the only customers to be allowed this privilege.
Why can't everybody reserve tables? If they do not arrive reasonably on time (as, I confess, I did not, because of my difficulties in finding the place), the reservation could be cancelled. At present it is like those theatres that do not allocate numbered seats, so if you book in advance, you have to turn up half an hour early to try to make sure of a decent place.
The Right Honourable Gerald Kaufman is MP for Manchester Gorton and chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.