Goodbye to all that

Baroness Murphy

As soon as recess began yesterday we came down to Italy for a few days change from what has been a depressing few weeks in the Lords. I have a completely different take on what happened in the last stages of the passage of the PVSC bill from Lord Knight. But before I get onto that I have to comment on the wonders of the mimosa trees which flower in northern Tuscany in early February brightening the hillsides and giving  a glorious perfume. It’s always worth a trip here in early spring to catch the wild hellebores, camellias and lemons ripened over winter. Yes it rains a lot but today we lunched outside in the sun.  



But Back to the Lords. All Governments pack the House of Lords with their own supporters, ‘twas ever thus. And with an elected house we are likely to have a chamber with a proportional representation of the votes at an election; hence the Government of the day will expect to be able to get it’s business through the Second Chamber as it does now. We are there to challenge, improve by revision, ask the Commons to think again and reconsider. The Commons did indeed reconsider, even if in their usual cursory fashion and in a rather dismissive way. Many crossbenchers will not press the Commons past one reconsideration, in other words they won’t indulge in ping-pong because we regard ourselves as finally an unelected house that should give way to the Commons at the end of the debates.   So quite a lot of crossbenchers wouldn’t have stayed to vote in the late night final ping-pong and quite a lot of us who were there for the first ping-pong did not vote in support of the amendments which had been brought forward earlier.  So the crossbenchers do not feel let down, rather they feel that in the end a strong Government got its way, as was the case I recall when the Labour party were in a strong position and persuaded the LibDems to vote with them.

For me it suggests that the Opposition must learn the value of persuasion and negotiation off the floor of the House and working more in cross-party alliances. Many Labour party members kept saying the Labour constituencies would be disadvantaged by the reduction in MPs and new even-sized constituencies but no-one ever gave the crossbenchers any convincing facts and figures to demonstrate their case.  And the forthcoming bills? Like most bills the ones approaching are a mixture of the good,  the inadequately prepared and the peculiar, just like the former Government’s were. Curiously many of them had their origins in Labour party policy, like the Health and Social Care Bill.  The Second Chamber works best by collaborative negotiation that was largely lost from the Chamber this term. I hope it isn’t going to continue like this; I’ve had a belly-full of destructive political squabbling of the kind we see in the Commons to no-one’s benefit. Still, any complaints I have about il sistema politico britannico pale into insigificance in Berlusconi’s Italy.

13 comments for “Goodbye to all that

  1. Carl.H
    19/02/2011 at 11:24 am

    My Lady an elected House you seem to favour would result in far worse scenarios that the one of late.

    We are there to challenge, improve by revision, ask the Commons to think again and reconsider.

    The question seems to be how much of a challenge to apply. The Government acts in a lot of cases autonomously, the people have not voted for each individual piece of legislation. The expertise of the House of Lords should address each bill with how it feels would be best for the Nation and also act in an autonomous way not yield automatically to Government.

    The Conservative party was voted for by 10.7 million people, approx 23% of the electorate or approx 18% of the population based on 60 million. Regardless of the supposed legitimacy of the Government, which doesn’t represent a majority of the people, the House of Lords is to address bills from a neutral standpoint based on it’s expertise and evidence given. This will of course throw up partisan problems in a House where parties have become allowed to flourish and control. The problem will only get worse if the House is elected as parties are the only entity setup to undertake such elections.

    If as my Lady suggests that the House is reconfigured each election to proportionally represent the commons it will be of little consequence as it will politically mirror the commons. Minor adjustments to bills maybe made as a result of in party squabbles but little else.

    We have to have Government that acts autonomously for the good of the Nation but we have to also have a Lords that acts this way as a check to that autonomy.

    Now my Lady is saying the 10.7 million or 18% of the population are enough to allow the Government as it pleases at the same time as stating AV is the way forward. If my Lady looks closely at the election results in terms of AV there appears a great deal more voters who would probably have voted Labour further up an AV ballot paper. The likelyhood being that if one experimented, hypothetically, with the figures nationwide that Labour would now be in Government if AV had been the choice.

    Bills have to be addressed in the Lords in the light of your own experience, wisdom and evidence. The balance of these are for you to decide but one should not deny the rights of other members of the House to hold a differing view and act within the remit of the House although you personally find it distasteful.

    Regards Berlusconi, well who can’t help to respect a politician willing to put his hand in his own pocket to help the young. At least she wasn’t an intern who wasn’t paid at all. 😉

  2. Gareth Howell
    19/02/2011 at 5:02 pm

    Labour may be disadvantaged by the constituency sizes n future but not ‘arf as much as they have been AD-vantaged by the Welsh and Scottish seats in the last few years.

    Enjoy the Flowers. My daffs are nearly out a month earlier than last year, which was such a cold late winter and spring. Then for the
    apple blossom!

    Ah the mediteranean climes have some thing different and sooner!

  3. Adam
    19/02/2011 at 6:40 pm

    “the Government of the day will expect to be able to get it’s business through the Second Chamber as it does now”

    IT’S? IT’S?!!!!!!!

  4. Baroness Murphy
    Baroness Murphy
    20/02/2011 at 9:06 am

    Adam, ah me, it’s the substitution for the possessive noun that always fails me. Apologies, I shall try harder in future.

  5. maide elwes
    20/02/2011 at 10:41 am

    Clearly it won’t be up for two days.

  6. Senex
    20/02/2011 at 7:29 pm

    One shrub that gives an early boost to insects like the bumble bee is ‘Buckland’ Mahonia; they normally flower around Christmas but they are very late this year.

    The scent of the yellow flowers is exquisite and quite out of place in early winter; however the purple berries can be a nuisance later on.

    As for the word ‘its’; I remember once being taken to task on this by two grammar enthusiasts, I suppose I must have made a similar mistake. The outcome as I recollect was that the word should never have an apostrophe at all. This surprised me as grammar related reading says it can. As a result I tend to write out in full words that might otherwise include an apostrophe in them.

    My grandson is coming up three and I am trying to get him interested not so much in reading but in those funny little marks called punctuation – trying to make a game of it. Not much luck though!

  7. baronessmurphy
    21/02/2011 at 10:06 am

    Senex, I lost my winter flowering mahonia a couple of years ago after twenty glorious years; you’ve reminded me I must get another.

    The ‘eats, shoots and leaves’ problems must be worth getting right musn’t they? Never too young to learn. The rule as I understand it is ‘its’ never has an apostrophe unless it signifies ‘It Is’; I feel I should remember that. I’ve noticed in the Lords that I tend to leave out apostrophes in my speaking notes and Hansard magically reinserts them perfectly.

    • maude elwes
      21/02/2011 at 2:04 pm

      @Senex: I always understood its and it’s as both being correct in context.


      It’s a bright day = It is a bright day.

      It’s been a long time = It has been a long time.

      It’s common sense = It is common sense.


      Its: Yes its means ‘of it’ or belonging to it.

      As in: I have a pen. Its colour is black.

      That’s my cat and these are its kittens.

  8. Twm O'r Nant
    21/02/2011 at 12:34 pm

    completely different take on what happened in the last stages of the passage of the PVSC bill from Lord Knight……mimosa trees

    He’s not very bright; he does not know about mimosa trees.

    • Carl.H
      22/02/2011 at 10:25 am

      Twm O’r Nant maybe the perspective is different from the backbenches to the front.

      As ex-Lord Thurso explains:

      “People used to say that if you could talk without dribbling and manage to stand up, you were on the front bench.”

  9. Twm O'r Nant
    23/02/2011 at 10:21 am

    I don’t know about Lord Knight dribbling.

    • Senex
      24/02/2011 at 1:53 pm

      Does he own a football?

      • Carl.H
        24/02/2011 at 7:05 pm

        Of course he’s an Arsenal supporter-which is possibly in my eyes one of a very few redeeming factors. Unfortunately in my eyes he lost my trust before taking the position even though he held his hands up to a “mistake”.

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