Pay attention, there’s more than one Parliament, you know!

One of things that has bothered me for longer than I care to remember is the Party’s fixation on the green benches at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, almost to the total exclusion of anything, and everything, else. As a bureaucrat deep within the Party’s structures, I long for the day when more and better people come forward to be Local, Regional and State Party officers, candidate assessors, returning officers and trainers. But we bureaucrats are not alone in being overlooked in favour of the Commons…

Down the corridor, there are seventy-nine Liberal Democrat Peers (with Richard Allan still to be introduced), a number in their eighties, still fighting for liberal democracy. Some of them are still household names – Paddy Ashdown, David Steel and Shirley Williams, to name but three. Others are familiar faces from Party Conferences, like Liz Barker, Navnit Dholakia and Chris Rennard. There are even those who have come from local government, like Tony Greaves, Sally Hamwee and Ros Scott. However, the one thing that links them all is an astonishing commitment to the cause.

Best of all, because of the way the House of Lords works, our Peers actually have much more influence than their colleagues down the corridor do. The lack of an overall majority for any one Party, exacerbated by the presence of more than two hundred crossbenchers and twenty-six bishops, means that there is much more scope for negotiation. Indeed, whilst Labour were ramming vast amounts of dreadful legislation through the Commons, the Liberal Democrats in the Lords were amending here, debating there, with the less than total support of the Official Opposition.

Today, my intention is to lift the curtain on what goes on in the Lords. Floella Benjamin writes about her journey from Trinidad to the House of Lords, whilst Bill Bradshaw, our Transport Spokesman, provides an insight into the work of a front bencher. There is also an interview with our Deputy Chief Whip, Dominic Addington, who has the unenviable job of whipping a group of people who have no incentive to toe a line other than loyalty.

The argument as to what should be done with the Second Chamber has been had often enough, so Alex Runswick from Unlock Democracy writes about how to retain the valuable expertise that currently resides in the Lords in a new elected chamber, whilst Mark Pack writes about how best we can campaign in advance of the list election that will follow if the legislation creating a new second chamber is passed.

There will also be maiden speeches from Kate Parminter and John Shipley before I summarise at the end of the day. That reminds me, I really ought to write that…

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4 Comments

  • Ian Sanderson 22nd Jul '10 - 7:57am

    When I saw the headline, I rather assumed it referred to the Scottish Parliament and, possibly, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. People in England can see excepts form their deliberations on BBC parliament on Saturdays (and also the excellent BBC Northern Ireland politics programme first broadcast in Northern Ireland late on Thursday evening).

    Perhaps: Pay attention, there’s more than one House of Parliament, you know!

  • George W. Potter 22nd Jul '10 - 12:29pm

    I second what Ian said.

  • I agree with Nigel Ashton on us having only one parliament in Westminster.

    I wonder if the Liberal Democrats ignore their successes in the upper house because it undermines their commitment to an elected upper chamber.

    “The lack of an overall majority for any one Party, exacerbated by the presence of more than two hundred crossbenchers and twenty-six bishops, means that there is much more scope for negotiation.”

    This is exactly why I’m a fan of an appointed chamber and will vote against an elected upper house in a referendum. Even a chamber with PR misses the point that negotiation and compromise are best served by having a non-partisan atmosphere. Surely we have enough politicians in the lower house without adding another tier of slaves to the party machine.

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