BBC's The Week in Westminster

Baroness D'Souza

Lord (Paul) Tyler and I had a brief interview with the BBC on the value of this new blogging departure for the House of Lords. The point I think worth making is that there is an ever present danger that this House becomes a world looking inwards and we want it to be one looking outwards.

One way of doing this is by means of blogging – it is really liberating for a more than middle-aged peer such as myself to be able to interact with the larger, and very possibly younger, world out there. It is not a way, as we took pains to point out, of advertising ourselves but of explaining what we do and why we do it!

The pay-off is the feedback we get from people with whom perhaps we would not normally come into contact and this underlines Lord Tyler’s earlier blog about the need to have an outside life. We have to resist the tendency to feel that all of life’s rich pageant lies within this House: it doesn’t!

Although Parliament is where decisions affecting the lives of millions of citizens are made – democracy demands that we use every available mechanism to hear, and take account of, people’s views, whether this be listening to farmers in pubs or reading and responding to blog comments.

12 comments for “BBC's The Week in Westminster

  1. 19/03/2008 at 2:46 pm

    Anything that adds to government transparancy is, IMHO, good. So I’d love to see this project continue and for the populous to have confidence that what goes on behind closed doors is the same as that which would go on if those doors were open.

    I therefore wish you every success.

  2. Lords - Independent and Impartial ??
    19/03/2008 at 3:10 pm

    When / where are you going to be on Auntie Beeb ? Don’t be coy !

  3. ladytizzy
    19/03/2008 at 3:54 pm

    Out of curiosity, why now, and why only nine (or is it eight – Baroness Young’s name doesn’t appear in your ‘Categories’) who are willing to put some time into getting this project off the ground?

  4. baronessdsouza
    19/03/2008 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks so much Martin bryant and the broadcast in on Saturday morning (22nd March) at 11 AM Radio 4

  5. Lords - Independent and Impartial ??
    19/03/2008 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks, as there is also a ‘Westminster Hour’ on Sunday evening.

  6. 19/03/2008 at 8:50 pm

    Well done! This is an excellent initiative which should require no apologies: not advertising yourselves? Of course you are, and why not.

  7. Clive Soley
    20/03/2008 at 9:04 am

    In response to ladytizzy….A little bit of background on lordsoftheblog. I started a blog as an MP in 2003( http://clivesoleymp.typepad.com/clive_soley_mp/)

    As I was coming to the end of my time in the Commons (I had decided not to stand at the 2005 election) it seemed right to see how it could work for legislators. MP’s are always under pressure for time and I was concerned that they would be reluctant to start a blog if the time was open ended and especially as you dealt with queries from all over the world – which is slightly bigger than MP’s constituencies! (See: http://clivesoleymp.typepad.com/clive_soley_mp/why_mps_blog.html for a paper I wrote on this in 2003/4)

    So when I came to the Lords I thought a ‘group’ blog might work better as there would always be others participating and if it worked in the Lords perhaps it would work in the Commons as well.

    Following discussions with the Library and Information Department and the Hansard Society it was decided to give it a trial run. I am very grateful to both organisations and especially Barry Griffiths of the Hansard Society and Elizabeth Hallam Smith of the Library for their help and support which was essential to make this work.

    The number of contributors was not governed by anything other than Lords who expressed interest when approached or who had a known interest. I hope and expect other members of the House to join in. Some of the comments posted seem to want the Lords spirtual to join so I will ask them to consider it.

    I think this will grow as people participate and learn about it. The use of this site has been very encouraging and thoughtful so keep commenting and I’ll step up my recruitment campaign!

  8. 20/03/2008 at 10:45 pm

    I also think this is an excellent initiative, but a few comments :}

    I’m sure you will revisit this anyway but the design is off-putting. When I say ‘design’ I don’t just mean lots more images and something ‘sexier’ but actually the posts. Blocks of just text is off-putting and you don’t see enough images, links or other elements which break it up and make reading easier. A related issue is titling, which needs to be much more explicit and constructed more like headlines to draw links/audiences.

    If you want the initiative to break out of the usual circles, schedule a look at how people read content online.

    The other point is the link back to your work as documented by parliament online. I have just spent a long while trying to source video of a debate on wednesday and gave up in the end because I was clicking around the entire 7 hour session. The text is easy but video hard. I was actually thinking of seeing if I could somehow make a clip of it but then thought ‘that’s illegal’ *and ‘someone will come after me’. I wanted to post the video of the debate but that’s only possible through giant, illicit effort. Enabling that would be a really effective method to get Lords debates out onto the web and seen by many more people.

    I’m sure you do this/think this anyway about the Parliament site but there’s a danger that your endeavors here will be let down by the quality of your documentation there.

  9. Jenny S-T
    21/03/2008 at 7:27 pm

    Well said.

  10. 22/03/2008 at 7:12 pm

    i was listening to radio 4’s week in parliament and heard about the blogs.

    just a quick follow up request, could you write about your day to day activities, places you lunch, expenses you claim.

    all information would be much appreciated.

    by the way, i’m a member of the armed forces going OOA later this year

  11. baronessdsouza
    24/03/2008 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you for your comments Embryofields – I work a long day – but by choice. I get in to the HoL at about 8.30 and check e-mails and open mail and try to deal with anything that can be dispatched immediately – such as invitations to events, seminars, launches and the like. (NB to put them in the diary or I will forget!) Then I grab the newspapers and go for breakfast.

    My main aim in life at the HoL is to gather information on what is happening or likely to happen. It is my job to keep the Independent Crossbenchers as up-to-date as I can.

    They say a week is a long time in politics, actually a day is at times pretty interminable. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO COME UP – that is the first and foremost lesson.

    An unexpected statement from the Government to which a knowledgeable reply may be needed.
    A sudden change in the business programme which means that those expecting a vote at a certain time may have to wait a few more hours or those coming in especially for a vote should be advised of changes.
    A debate in which there is forthright and concerted criticism of Government policy – drawing media attention.
    The death of a much loved colleague (an occupational hazard in a place where the average age approaches 68 years).

    Other events to do with the administration of the House
    are no less dramatic at times – there may be a security matter or a decision needed on a tricky expenditure issue.

    And then there are committees on almost every aspect of the business of the House of Lords, ranging from refreshment facilities to procedure and from those that monitor any possible abuse of parliamentary privilege to agreeing overall expenditure and/or the future reform of the House of Lords. I currently sit on 10 committees each of which produces papers to be read before the meeting.

    I don’t usually have lunch (thank you for asking) unless I have a formal invitation.

    Expenses cover the daily cost of being in London (I live about 85m miles from Parliament)such as rent, food, transport, materials, some necessary entertainment and, of course, staff. Our office now has one and a half paid administrative/research posts but we also take on a couple of interns for specific research tasks.

    I try to stay until the business of the day is done or the it is ‘House up’- usually at about 10 PM on Monday – Wednesday and at about 7 PM on a Thursday. The House sits on the occasional Friday as well and ends at about 3 PM.

  12. Bedd Gelert
    25/03/2008 at 11:46 am

    Gosh, variety is the spice of life, as they say. I am a tad concerned at these ‘long hours’ though – surely you should be setting an example to the country and getting away from this workaholic approach. But if you enjoy it, then that might be quite different – but I’m alarmed about this ‘lunch is for wimps’ approach. So last century, dear, and I think it is important for everyone to get a break and a breath of fresh air at the middle of the day – even at this time of year.

    Pardon me for asking, but what is there to do on a Friday ? I didn’t think the ‘other place’ sat on a Friday. Perhaps it is just clearing up bills that came through earlier in the week.

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