Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Visits and Filibusters in Parliament

We visited, the Lords filibustered. We being the current L6th Politics set, the Lords being the Labour peers who don't much like the idea of the government's Constitutional Reform Bill. This is on the grounds that they think the proposed reduction in Commons seats to 600 will mainly hit the Labour party. Which it will, of course, no arguing with that. So the Lords are filibustering, and were up all night making largely hopeless comments, and still at it this morning. Which meant that when the eager beaver politics set was doing it's tour of Parliament, courtesy of Paul Burstow, and guided by 'Jumper', while we could straggle our way through the Commons, we couldn't parade through the Lords chamber, because the Lords were rather inconveniently using it. But we did get to go and see some of the debate. It wasn't noted for its high quality, it has to be said. The half hour we were there saw Lord Prescott drape himself over one of the benches before eventually sitting down; Lord Kinnock make an intervention, the point of which was rather lost on me; Lord Tebbit amble briefly in to reduce the temperature of the place before heading back out to eat some babies; and Labour peer Lord Davies of Oldham make a number of incomprehensible points about what could have been anything. All very illuminating, and I would have pointed out to the students, eagerly hanging on to pretty well no words whatsoever, that we were privileged to be watching democracy in action. Except that we weren't. None of them have been elected. Not for a long time anyway. We left as Lord Triesman, late of the FA, was making his speech. I hope it was more considered than those secret ones he used to make when he didn't realise he was being recorded.

Other than the above glimpse of parliament in action, there isn't much to say. Westminster Hall is still the oldest and coldest part of Westminster. Winston Churchill's statue in the Members' Lobby still has a shiny toe. Margaret Thatcher is still the only living person (her opponents dispute the strict interpretation of the word living) to have a statue in the palace. And the House of Lords still has a system of democracy envied and emulated by our very own Student Voice. And Lenin.

We didn't see many famous people, one of the real purposes of visiting Westminster, or the Ivy restaurant. One or two had hoped to see UKIP's Nigel Farage, before remembering that he hadn't actually been elected to the place. We did bump into Betty Boothroyd, the greatest female Speaker the Commons has ever had, and there was another chap who looked as if he might be famous but on the other hand might not have been. On the whole, though, who needs fame when you're part of a group comprising the editor of Sutton's least read tabloid, the self-appointed chairman of Sutton's least influential people's body, and the convenor of Sutton's least attended law society. Sadly, it also comprised one of Warley East's least voted for parliamentary candidates in the bad old days of 1992.

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