...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 2003: Lord Rat Speaker


My chums in the House of Lords club are choosing a new SPEAKER today, who is to be the person in charge of their DEBATES when they are trying to stop Lord Blairimort's latest mad scheme.

As a special treat he or she will also get to pitch Lord Charlie Chum off the WOOLSACK and sit there in his place because from now on Mr Frown wants no more confusion over who is CHANCELLOR.

There are ten people running for this job, even though the first thing that they will need to do is get DRESS ROBES costing £10,000!!!

They have all been given a chance to say something about themselves, what they would do in the job, how they would spend the prize money, that sort of thing!

Lord Boston says "Nothing is more satisfying than serving this House" which suggests that either he is buttering them up or he might need to get out more. He goes on to add: "If elected, I would wish to serve for one term only: this post is unique; it should be shared" which is much nicer.

Lord Elton has a good mini-manifesto, particularly the bit where he says he wants to "Explain [the House of Lords’] constitutional role and relevance to a large audience, particularly of the young, in the UK and encourage then to engage in the political process" though he loses points for adding: " With the House Committee, advance its general interests and security" Um, (a) playing the security card and (b) shouldn't you be advancing the interests of the COUNTRY not the House?

Baroness Fookes line is "The Lord Speaker must be the servant of the House and not its master". More buttering up, then. HOW would she be the servant? She doesn't say – but she DOES have experience as a Deputy Speaker in the OTHER PLACE.

Lord Grenfell (catchphrase: "Lord George… Don't do that!") says he is "a tax-paying, voter registered, five-day-a-week London resident." Which is nice, whatever it is supposed to mean. He says he'll stick to the limited powers and only act as the House instructs. Which kind of ought to be in the job description anyway!

Baroness Hayman hopes her record will show her to be"…an energetic, diplomatic and persuasive ambassador for the House, its value and its values." She's fond of integrity and self-regulation too.

Countess Mar talks of her 30 years of experience and enthusiasm. She says how good she is at sensing the mood of the House, which would be a useful talent in a Speaker, it is true.

I LIKE Lord Redesdale because he says "I pledge, as Speaker I would do as little as possible in the Chamber, apart from sitting on the Woolsack." This is what I do all day too! Daddy Alex says that Lord R is being a Liberal and warning that there is too much POTENTIAL power in this job and that he will stand against ABUSE.

Lord Richard says "As a former Leader and Leader of the Opposition…" and that's all you really need to know. He is reminding people not just that he is used to being in charge, but also that Lord Blairimort sacked him for being UPPITY. So he means "elect me and stick one on that upstart Blairimort!"

Finally, Lord Ullswater rightly sees that "[t]he main challenge for the Lord Speaker lies outside the Chamber" and pledges to devote himself to spreading wider appreciation and understanding.

You can read their full statements, and their register of interests here: clickity.

The key themes that emerge are the importance of INDEPENDENCE and SELF-REGULATION for the House of Lords, and the need to EDUCATE people about what they do and how they do it.

I am all for EDUCATION, education is GOOD because it empowers people to take charge of the democratic process.

INDEPENDENCE I agree with too, because it is VITAL to our well being that there are checks on the power of the Prime Minister and the House of Lords is one of the very few remaining!

But SELF-REGULATION is more troubling. I realise that in this context, "self-regulation" is CODE for "not regulated by any maniacal Prime Ministers you could think of (not mentioning any names but it’s Lord Blairimont)".

But The Houses of Parliament – both of them – should be answerable to the BRITISH PEOPLE and not just to themselves. Self-regulation is actually saying "good chaps trust other good chaps to be good chaps" and "we're all good chaps, so you can trust us".

Except, of course, we're no longer sure that we CAN.

A proper CONSTITUTIONAL SETTLEMENT would say just what powers (AND NOT MORE!) the Houses of Parliament could actually use. It is Parliament's contract with the people and the only real way of legitimising anything that they do there.

As important as she or he may be as a figure, the creation of the Lord Speaker is really just more TINKERING with the cobbled together collection of bits and pieces that we LAUGHINGLY refer to as the British Constitution.

Even though Lord Blairimort promised to sit down and work out a proper set of reforms for the House of Lords – including the way that people get into the club – he has AVOIDED doing so, and instead done everything in his (considerable and growing) power to UNDERMINE them as they are a THREAT to his authority.

So much of what people are worried and upset about stems from the fact that our government is not properly kept in check.

Thank goodness for Mr Balloon, eh! He has set up an official CONSTITUTION TASK FORCE to look into this sort of thing. He takes them VERY seriously, as you can tell be the way that, er, he has started making up new bits of constitution without bothering to tell them.

Now, what was it they said about ABSOLUTE POWER?

PS: for explanation of today's title, see: here.

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