Diaries

Lord Tyler

Political students know how valuable the diaries of politicians can be, even if they have to be read with a large quantity of salt at the ready.  If they are published shortly after the events described, when the players are still on the field, they are all the more intriguing … or possibly deceptive.  In truth, some diaries – like those of Richard Crossman and Paddy Ashdown – can be said to have had important consequences for their successors.  We have not seen any remarkable examples recently, but perhaps this autumn will produce more ?
 
During the Parliamentary Recess the excellent BBC Radio 4 series based on the diaries of strictly non-politicians reminded me that I needed to check through my mother’s diaries.  These came to me when she died in December 2001, a few weeks after celebrating her 100th birthday with a great family party.  I was very busy at the time, and I had never explored the large box to see which of her diaries had survived.   To my disappointment there were only two from the early decades of the 20th Century, one apparently retained because it recorded the death of her favourite brother in the last weeks of the 1914-18 war and the other because it covered the final illness and death of her father in the 1920s.  The following decades were meticulously chronicled, however.  She tended to very brief domestic details, rather than observations on the national or world scene.  Churchill’s 1940 broadcast is briefly mentioned, squeezed in between bees swarming and babies being bathed.   In this respect she follows the pattern of one of her Cornish ancestors who maintained a daily record of the first 15 years of the 19th Century without ever writing the words Bonaparte or Napoleon.
 
Once into the 1970s, however, she is more specific.  The all day counts and recounts of my first election to the Commons in 1974 are there, with our daughter (not yet two) lost but discovered eating pasties and entertaining supporters in the Liberal Club.  My mother does not admit to the threatened fisticuffs with Young Conservatives (she was 72 at the time), but the police constable was quite explicit. 
 
The dairies faithfully record all the comings and goings of the family for some 70 years and I will treasure them for that.  But they do not even mention some of my own preoccupations during the last 40 years of public life.  Why should they ?  Perhaps I should myself note some of the more notable incidents – how (when I had a real job outside politics) I led the team which helped to win the Channel Tunnel bid, or how I persuaded Robin Cook and Ken Clarke to join me in a cross-party attempt to break the deadlock in Lords Reform.

Meanwhile, I was intrigued to see, from my father’s schoolboy diaries in the early 1900s, that he proposed a motion in favour of a Channel Tunnel and another in favour of Lords Reform.   Life in the House of Lords does tend to give one a very lengthy perspective.

6 comments for “Diaries

  1. 10/09/2008 at 7:16 am

    Life in the House of Lords doesn’t seem to have given this chap any perspective whatsoever. He should say who he is (how are we supposed to know?) and who his Mother is.

    Lordy Lordy

  2. Adrian Kidney
    10/09/2008 at 12:22 pm

    Just a moment Tim! I think that’s unfair on Lord Tyler. I think he’s merely sharing a story of the history of political activism in his family and of his mother’s memories; I don’t think he’s dropping family names!

  3. Raj
    10/09/2008 at 4:10 pm

    Um, all the entries are signed — look at the byline under the title — and this one is by Lord Tyler. You can find bios of the authors of this blog here

  4. 10/09/2008 at 6:33 pm

    Life in the House of Lords doesn’t seem to have given this chap any perspective whatsoever.

    This sounds clever without actually meaning anything.

    He should say who he is (how are we supposed to know?) and who his Mother is.

    I see on your blog that you don’t write ‘Hi, I’m Tim and I like to jump to conclusions…’ at the beginning of every post. I see no reason why Lord Tyler should have to do this either.

    Simply click the ‘Lord Tyler’ link under the post title for all his posts, or click ‘The Authors’ link on the main menu to get information on all their blogging-lordships. Finding that out for yourself would have taken less time than writing a comment. 🙂

  5. Lord Tyler
    14/09/2008 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks to Adrian, Raj and Liam for directing readers who need a brief biographical note.

    For those who have any further appetite, try more topical news on http://www.paultyler.libdems.org

  6. Senex
    15/09/2008 at 4:25 pm

    Don’t mention the channel tunnel!

    Many of its customers at the moment are unable to email sales support or customer relations because emails are being bounced. As a last resort people have to use postal mail to attempt a refund or credit note. On the positive side I just love travelling through the tunnel on the car shuttle, its a real privilege every single time.

    On the subject of diaries and one that you might pass back to your party conference: diaries are private until the owner releases their contents or the content is criminally leaked.

    The upcoming Finance Act 2008 is allowing legal inspection of tax practitioner diaries even though their owners regard them as very, very private. If this is allowed then no diary will ever be private again because legal precedence will have taken place.

    What use a House of Lords that must stand idly by whilst such a tyranny takes place?

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