More wit of Westminster

Lord Norton

54276As regular readers will know, the peers who propose and second the motion on the loyal address (thanking the Queen for her speech) are expected to inject humour into their speeches.   The speakers yesterday – former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton and Labour back-bencher Baroness Ford – did not disappoint. 

Baroness Ford recalled the occasion over 20 years ago when she was appointed a member of the Scottish Parole Board:

‘I learnt a lot. My first visit was to Barlinnie prison in Glasgow, and I studied my brief assiduously. One of the first points in the brief—this being the west of Scotland—was the number of Roman Catholics and Protestants in the jail. I soaked up all the information. When we toured the canteen, I noticed a large blackboard high on the wall. It said, “RC 344 and P 227”. Brimming with enthusiasm, I said to the governor, “How odd, for everyone knows that there are more Protestants than Catholics in Barlinnie”. “Don’t be so stupid”, he said, “that stands for rice crispies and porridge”. ‘

7 comments for “More wit of Westminster

  1. 04/12/2008 at 8:09 pm

    So nice of the Baroness to regale us with jokes from her grandfather’s childhood! I’m sure there was a Catholic on the throne when that joke was first told!

  2. 05/12/2008 at 3:36 am

    Good joke, it’s good that tradition allows for a little silliness. When does this seconding the motion on the loyal address take place though, is it after the Queen and members of the lower house have left?

    Unfortunately the confounded BBC will not let us johnny foreigners watch the state opening of parliament.

    Now for something completely different: I’ve resisted talking about Canada as it’s off-topic, but as the parliamentary meltdown is now front-page news on the BBC site (international version anyway), and it is Commonwealth related, I’d love to know what Lord Norton would have done if he were Governor General of Canada. Suspend parliament, or let the NDP/Liberal coalition go through?

    Also, is there any precedent for this sort of thing in other parts of the Commonwealth? It seems unique in that a coalition is being formed some time after an election, and possibly as the result of a no-confidence motion.

    I bring this up for two reasons: 1) am hoping Lord Norton, and readers of the blog, might find this sort of thing interesting, and; 2) Google is good, but it still isn’t as fast or comprehensive as Lord Norton (that’s a compliment by the way). 🙂

  3. howridiculous
    05/12/2008 at 8:19 am

    Dear Lord Norton,

    Excellent, thanks very much for posting!

    I also enjoyed the following from Baroness Ford:

    ‘when [Lord Falconer] was then shuffled to the Home Office, he was replaced by my right honourable friend John Prescott. Some girls have all the luck. It was suggested to me that I had swapped the Lord High Executioner for the Ancient Mariner.’


  4. NHackett
    05/12/2008 at 4:11 pm

    Lord Norton, On a unrelated topic to this post. What is your view of the constitutional crisis in Canada?

  5. lordnorton
    05/12/2008 at 5:56 pm

    McDuff: Is it an old joke? I had not heard it before. Recycling an old joke is not something I would dream of doing, as my friends I know will readily confirm.

    How ridiculous: There were indeed some other good jokes, both in the speech of Lord Falconer as well as that of Baroness Ford.

    Liam: On the debate on the address, this takes places in the afternoon after the State Opening has been completed. The Queen departs about noon. The gap between her leaving the chamber and departing the Palace is such that I have time to get to my office – which overlooks Old Palace Yard – to see her leave. The House then sits at 3.30 p.m., where we have the speeches of the proposer and seconder of the motion as described in my post. We then hear from the Leader of the Opposition, who moves that the debate be adjourned until tomorrow and then comments on the Queen’s Speech; he is followed by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the Leader of the House then responds. The motion to adjourn the debate until tomorrow is then put and agreed. The House then rises. We then have five days of debate on the Queen’s Speech, each day devoted to particular policy sectors. The first day – yesterday – was on foreign and European affairs, international development and defence.

    One reason why there is a gap of more than three hours between the Queen departing and the House sitting is that it takes some time to return the chamber to its normal seating pattern. If you look at how it is configured during the Queen’s Speech and then how it is set out for debates, you will realise the transformation that has to take place within a relatively short time.

    On your point about the situation in Canada – also raised by NHackett – I may do a separate post on it. It certainly is a remarkable situation.

  6. 05/12/2008 at 10:12 pm

    Thank you for the detailed response, Lord Norton.

    Lord Norton wrote:

    On your point about the situation in Canada – also raised by NHackett – I may do a separate post on it. It certainly is a remarkable situation.

    Excellent! Might be worth submitting to some news aggregation sites (if you did write a post on the subject).

    For anyone wondering what we’re talking about, here’s the BBC article: Bitter week in Canadian politics

  7. 07/12/2008 at 12:59 am

    Lord Norton

    I am personally an avid recycler of old, awful jokes, as my friends will also readily attest.

    The origins of that particular joke are lost in the mists of time, but I do recall one written, somewhat expanded version (including SA “Salvation Army?” “no, stewed apples”) from The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal by Adrian Plass, which google tells me is a good 14 years old.

    This is not to disparage Baroness Ford. The retelling of old jokes is a fine tradition which should be upheld by our government institutions!

    Those of you who are interested in the current Canadian hullabaloo, and who are geeky enough to read about constitutional politics explained in terms of network architecture, may enjoy The Yorkshire Ranter’s recent posts on the subject.

Comments are closed.