As my fellow bloggers have said, returning to parliament felt different this time. The sheer numbers of new boys and girls, with more on the way, makes the place feel claustrophobically crowded at question time. I failed to arrive before prayers on tuesday and couldn’t get a seat anywhere. Eventually I squeezed on the back row of the Opposition benches. But it isn’t simply the sense of overcrowding, there’s a sense of the House awaiting major historical change…the bill to create a predominantly elected house is being prepared, the Old Guard is making way for ministers who I don’t recognise. Yesterday Lord McNally announced there would be no State Opening until May 2012, a sensible thing in my view to give parliament a good run at a programme of bills. Lord McNally continues to impress me from the Despatch Box, he has the rare quality of being convincingly honest about his replies and is willing to admit when he doesn’t know or isn’t senior enough in the overall political pecking order to be able to make a decision. New Ministers could profitably emulate his style.
The feel of the Chamber as a grand waiting room is also because we haven’t got stuck into any new bills yet; none are yet tabled to start in the Lords. The Local Government Bill and the Terrorist Asset Freezing Bill were just finishing off from last session. Perhaps it will feel more like normal when we get immersed in new bills as they come from the Commons.